Well, not exactly like a Christmas we normally think of in the US…
I must admit it is a bit strange that December is “summer” here in Costa Rica so it’s warm and sunny during Christmas. Without sweaters, hot cocoa and a fire in the fireplace, it obviously does not feel like a “typical” Christmas. Here we are last week, playing in shorts at the park with Cherie’s kids.But where Costa Rica lacks with my normal perception of a wintery Christmas, it makes up for it with it’s focus on the true meaning of Christmas. Costa Rica and religion are not two separate subjects. They are interwoven into every aspect of life here. Most people have rosaries hanging from their rear view mirrors, the bus drivers have posters of Jesus hanging above them in the bus, and many Costa Ricans have what Marc and I call “Saints in a Box” in their yard.So you can imagine that the Costa Rican people get excited about Advent and Christmas. Even “Saints in a Box” and “Saints at the End of the Street” get decorated.
Three days ago Maria and I decided to walk around the downtown area of our town, Grecia. Almost every window front had a crèche (a manger scene). It didn’t matter the type of store…shoe stores, pharmacies, lingerie stores…they all had one. And they were also inside stores and outside in front of people’s homes. Maria insisted to pose and have her photo taken everywhere she saw a crèche.
Maria loves going to church now because she gets to see a life size manger. She keeps asking where Baby Jesus is and we keep explaining that he will show up on Christmas. Maria says she can’t wait to come to church on Christmas morning to see Baby Jesus. This kid rocks.
Another thing that occurs in Costa Rica in the month of December is end of the school year parties. Because December, January and February are the prime coffee picking months, these are their summer break months. It is also the warmest and driest time of the year. End of the school year parties are big here. Maria’s preschool had an all day party with a bouncy house, a pool, a piñata, salsa music, and of course lots of food. Here is Maria at her party with her teachers and school friends.
Yesterday was an absolute Christmas highlight. A major tradition in Costa Rica during Advent is to make tamales. Tamales are made with a corn base dough called masa and usually filled with pork, rice, and vegetables. Making and cooking tamales is generally an activity which involves the participation of all family members. It is a slow, careful and laborious process. As some family members prepare the corn dough, others will be chopping and mincing additional ingredients and yet others will be preparing the plantain leaves and strings that will be used to wrap the tamales for steaming. Grandmothers and mothers will teach granddaughters and daughters how to make tamales; making sure the tradition is kept alive. All through the month of December no Costa Rican home will be found without tamales. Cherie wants to make sure that her kids at Residencia de Vida learn how to make tamales and can pass down this tradition one day when they have children. Cherie brought in the experts, the Tías (the house moms that cook and clean at the orphanage). The Tías, Rosa and Blanca have been making tamales since they were young children. It was a lot of fun to see the two of them work together and bring in each of their family’s secrets to making the best tamale. Making tamales is serious business here in Costa Rica. Joellen, Camden and Cherie’s kids felt so special making the tamales. We started at 7:00 am and finally finished at 4:00 pm. All the hard work paid off…the Residencia de Vida tamales were delicioso!
And last but not least…our family Christmas card. This is the first year we have not sent out Christmas cards…way too difficult with the mail issue down here plus I can’t imagine how long it would take you all to receive our card. You’d be lucky to receive it by Easter. My dad took this picture when they were here visiting last month. We could NOT get Maria to smile so this is the best we got.
Or you might prefer this more classy rendition of our Christmas card. Marc and Joellen prefer the first, while Camden, Maria and I prefer this one with Mater. If you are wondering how, why, when, and where we found this Mater truck, the answer is he showed up to the local barrio (neighborhood) Christmas fiesta where Cherie and her kids live. Yep, that’s the field we always play soccer at with Cherie’s kids.It definitely has been a fun and entertaining December here in Costa Rica. But friends and family, we miss you and wish you a very blessed Christmas!