Semana Santa in Costa Rica
Easter Week at it´s best in Costa Rica!
At the end of the final week of Lent, the entire population of Costa Rica break into one long celebration for Easter or Semana Santa (Holy Week) and like no other nation, the Tico´s know how to party! With religious parades, processions, mini-festivals and delicious foods, this is the best place to be to enjoy with all your friends and family. Even if you are alone, everyone is welcome whether religious or otherwise, and by opting out of the traffic queues to the beach, there´s just as much fun to be had in the towns and cities throughout the country.
Most of the population take the whole week off work, where over a million flock to the beaches, so why not stay put and revel in their deep-seated traditions and take part in the festivities right on your doorstep?
Things you may not know about Semana Santa
1) During Holy Week, a Dry Law takes place from midnight on (Ash) Wednesday through to 12.00am (Good) Friday, whilst the mourning of Jesus takes place. Most of the bars, restaurants and liquor stores abide by this strict Catholic tradition, so if you have no wish to abstain, then make sure you stock up with plenty of supplies beforehand.
2) Many locals hold strongly to traditions and superstitions and will not swim or take to the ocean on the Thursday or Friday for fear of God´s anger.
3) Some are even more suspicious that you will turn into a fish if you swim on these holy days, or the earth will become hotter, causing more earthquakes during this most revered religious time.
4) Saturday night before Easter is Judas Night, both feared and celebrated. Years ago, it was a night of pranks when young people stole plants and furniture from porches and carried their booty off to the plaza in front of the church. They also built a Judas, an effigy made of straw and old clothes on a wooden frame, and stuffed firecrackers inside it. All across Costa Rica, Judases were marched from house to house, scaring some and angering others. At dawn, the Judases were burned in the church plaza, the explosions from within waking up one and all. However, people wanted to revive the old tradition, and neighborhoods and communities now have Judas burning under supervision, often early in the evening, with cimarrona music for all to enjoy.
5) Sunsets are at their most beautiful during Holy Week than any other time of the year in Costa Rica.
Parades and Processions
Several religious parades take place during Holy Week in Costa Rica, particularly on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and of course, Easter Sunday, but the procession of Jesus on the cross, although a little gory, is the most revered ceremony and one to go to the streets and witness.
Tres Rios in Cartago province of Costa Rica has one of the biggest flotations and re-enactments of Christs death. Ticos dressed as Romans perform flagellation amid the representation of every person present at the scene during the Crucifixion, followed by the crowds, often waving their palm branches as Christ walks by, dragging his heavy cross.
Another popular one is San Joaquin de Flories in Heredia with hoards gathering to watch for the procession to pass, many of whom are welcome to join in, making the most of the street vendors offering delicious snacks along the way.
From small villages to the larger towns and cities, up and down Costa Rica, there will be ceremonies, parades, festivities and lots of market stalls providing delicious and traditional foods to relish. At night time, crowds congregate for Mass and families walk around the squares to meet and talk with friends or just soak up the atmosphere of the splendor which is Semana Santa.
Thankfully, this is not barbaric with no bloodshed or injury to the bull, unlike the Spanish bull fights, so rest assured it´s all for show! Towns across Costa Rica host grand festivities with rodeos, dancing and fireworks and certainly one not to miss for all the family. Expect heart-pounding shows, lots of people, music and gaiety, and of course, the Tico´s famous hospitality!
As a Catholic country, the traditions and values run deep in Costa Rica where respectfully the Ticos forgo eating meat, particularly during Lent and Good Friday. Not that it in any way deters from the delicacies on offer, with typical foods such as fried fish and soups, rice with shrimp and several dishes with palm hearts.
Chiverre, an over-sized pumpkin sold in markets and stands around this time, is cooked into a sweet honey flavored jam and eaten plain or used in empanadas and other baked items. Pan casero, a sweet, flattish bread, is also a Holy Week specialty, and is even better if baked with leña or wood fire for the slightly smoky taste.
Encurtidos, vegetables pickled with vinegar, mustard and bay leaves, accompany all dishes. Heart-of-palm salad and tuna salad with seashell macaroni are also on Tico tables during Easter week. Feasts are for sharing and no one goes hungry, so eat, drink, relax and enjoy all that Costa Rica has to offer, but most of all, have fun Pura Vida Style!
Pura Vida Costa Rica!
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