I’m wearing shorts and a tank top. It’s December and I have a tan. Humid and over 80 degrees. There are absolutely no Christmas songs stuck in my head. The decorations are minimal in the city and non-existent at the farm. Everyday of this month hasn’t felt like Christmas season to me. All the traditions I associate with Christmas just aren’t in Costa Rica. In the city there are some decorations, but it feels like it’s more for the tourists. The television has had some commercials about Christmas and some kid programs about Christmas, but it hardly compares to the bombardment of Christmas shows in the US. It is nice to have escaped the commercialism of Christmas here, but at the same it’s strange to have Christmas without it.
For Christmas Eve day a pig was killed to for meat to make tamales as is tradition in Costa Rica. In the afternoon we went to the river, swam, jumped off rocks while enjoying the perfect blue skies and sunshine. Then we came back and assembled over a hundred tamales. In the late afternoon there was short rain shower, which isn’t common this time of year, but I imagined it was Costa Rican snow. At 8:30 in the evening we went to Memo’s mom’s house to celebrate Christmas.
It was a fairly typical gathering. There were lots of family, food, visiting, some dancing, and some music. I didn’t find the food particularly special, but it was very typical. Yuca, green bananas, chicharones, pork, some chicken, gallo pinto (rice and black beans), corn tortillas. My Christmas Eve “gift” was internet, so I was able to call my mom and wish her Merry Christmas. At midnight we all said Feliz Navidad and proceeded to give a hug and kiss on a cheek to everyone at the house. There were more than twenty people to greet. We got back home a little before 1am. At home 1am is not that late, but in Costa Rica it’s like staying up till 4am.
We slept in a little today. Christmas day is considered a day of rest and vacation. After breakfast we headed to the river and walked to several waterfalls. Costa Rica has some of the best waterfalls in the world. I’m convinced. Lunch was typical Costa Rican fare. There were no exchange of gifts today, no Christmas carols, no Christmas movies, no snow, no eggnog, no Christmas desserts. I did have a mug of hot chocolate with breakfast though, and listened to the one Christmas album I happen to have on my iPod because I really miss Christmas carols.
I wanted to have the experience of holidays and special occasions in another country and now I have. It’s made me realize that traditions are a big part of holidays as are friends and family. I feel extremely fortunate to be with this family for Christmas, but at the same time it’s not my family. There are always family members coming to the house to visit and eat, but they’re all strangers to me.
I have now had my birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas in Costa Rica. I have had good experiences for the three events, but I think I prefer them in the US. Yes I have friends here in Costa Rica and a few adopted families, but it’s not the same as celebrating with loved ones. I think at this point in my life I have associated these holidays with certain situations, so it was quite different to have them in Costa Rica.
December 28 side notes
Luz told me that this year was different for the whole family. Usually they have a tree and Christmas lights, but this year they just ran out of time.
Perhaps the decorations would have made if feel more like Christmas or perhaps not.
New Years is more important to the Chinchilla family because the entire family comes.
When I wrote this piece it didn’t feel like Christmas like I expected it to, but by the end of the day it did. I felt quite happy and satisfied. I watched a movie with a couple of new friends and ate part of a chocolate orange which helped immensely. Chocolate at Christmas always helps.