Travelers to Costa Rica may have noticed that it is a country with a dual existence: a growing nation, setting a global standard for ecological appreciation and preservation, and an easy, peaceful society with an emphasis on tradition and heritage. During the month of December, citizens enjoy a diverse display of Costa Rica’s old and new approaches to celebrating its culture.
Modern Costa Rica observes the holiday season throughout the entire month of December with a variety of winter festivals and gatherings. The largest event, Festival de la Luz, is an enormous spectacle set in the capital city of San José. This year, the city is expecting nearly one million people to enjoy fireworks, revelry, and the parade of extravagant floats moving through its streets towards a major gathering spot, Plaza de la Democracia. Another two million citizens are expected to watch the televised pageantry from home. Since 1996, San José has considered Festival de la Luz the hallmark of its seasonal merriment and a gift to the country.
The indigenous people of Costa Rica, called Boruca, rejoice in the winter season with several festivals featuring song, dance, and elaborate costumes. During the second week of December, the Fiesta de los Negritos combines an ancient ritual honoring the virgin of the Immaculate Conception with costumes, dancing, and music. On December 25th, the Zapote fiestas mark the end of the year with bullfights, amusement park rides, and traditional food and drink. Beginning on December 31, the Boruca hold a three-day festival called Danza de los Diabolitos (The Dance of the Little Devils). Donning intricate, colorful masks and handcrafted costumes, male members of the tribe re-enact the defeat of Spanish settlers during the 18th century. It is a reminder of a Costa Rican triumph and of their perseverance in maintaining a traditional way of life.