Monday, August 10, 2015

National Holidays and Symbols

Costa Rica celebrates many holidays throughout the year. Each town celebrates holidays unique to that town as well. Some months, there might be a different parade each weekend, most being religious holidays since Costa Rica is a Catholic country. Many businesses, including banks, close on official holidays. The country closes down entirely during the biggest holiday time, which is Easter Holy Week. Many services may not be available during Holy Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Buses stop running on Holy Thursday and Good Friday and no alcohol is served or sold on Holy Thursday. Banks and offices are closed. Try to avoid the popular beaches during Easter week. Hotels and car rentals are booked solid weeks in advance as everyone seems to head for the beach. Most Ticos now take the whole Christmas holiday week through New Year as their personal, unofficial holiday. 

January
New Year's Day—Revelers who were partying in the clubs the night before gather in San José's Parque Central and Buenos Aires, and Puntarenas to continue the festivities at dances.
Fiesta Palmares —Traditional (no bloodshed) bullfights called Toro a la Tica, live music, folk dancing, carnival with rides and games take place the first two week of the year in Palmares
Fiesta Santa Cruz—The fiesta in Santa Cruz on the Nicoya peninsula takes place the second week in January and has a western flair with bullfights and a parade followed by a party with food, concerts and fireworks.
Día de Santo Cristo de Esquipulas—Popular religious festival celebrated with fiestas and dancing in Alajuelita, Dulce Nombre and Santa Cruz. Alajuelita also includes an ox-cart parade and procession to the iron cross on the mountain above the village where a blessing is given.

February
Fiesta de los Diablitos—The festival of the little devils takes place in the second half of February. An indigenous celebration wrapped around a re-enactment of a battle between the toro (Spanish troops) and the diablitos (Boruca Indians). Striking hand carved masks and traditional costumes decorate participants and food and fireworks complete the scene in Rey Curre south of San Isidro de El General.
Ash Wednesday—Catholic first day of Lent
Carnival and Festival del Mar—A week of local celebrations in Puntarenas and Quepos including street fairs and fiestas, dancing and sporting events meaning Festival by the Sea.

March
Día de los Boyeros—Oxcart driver's day takes place on the second Sunday in March. A parade of beautifully handmade and painted oxcarts and driving competitions are surrounded by traditional costumes, food and dancing in San Antonio de Escazú. One of the most colorful celebrations and a real photo opportunity.
Día de San José—Saint Joseph is the patron saint of the capital city San José, and the day is recognized nationwide by Catholics with special masses (especially in the many other towns and communities named San José). It is an official business, bank and school holiday in the capital.

April
Semana Santa—Holy week is observed with religious processions and masses. The official holiday falls on the Thursday and Friday before Easter Sunday. Public transportation does not run on these two days and is extremely crowded the whole week. All alcohol sales are prohibited Thurs.- Sun. Many businesses extend the holiday to the entire week.
Fiesta San Vincente de Moravia—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and Toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Easter—Family and religious observations
Día de Juan Santamaría—National holiday honoring a young fighter from Alajuela who defended his country to the death against William Walkers forces at the battle of Rivas in 1856. Parades, marching bands, dances and other celebrations extend through the week concentrated in Alajuela.
Fiesta San Rafael de Sata Ana—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and Toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Fiesta Tarrazu—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and Toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)

May
Día de los Trabajadores—Labor Day. Parades, marches and the Presidential "state of the union" address to Congress and the people. Cricket matches are a highlight in Puerto Limón.
Fiesta Pattronale Desamparados—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and Toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Día de San Isidro Labrador—Escazú and San Isidros all over Costa Rica hold street fairs and parades with music, dancing, traditional food, honoring the patron saint of farmers with blessings of animals and crops.
Fiestas Pattronales San Marcos de Tarrazu, and Coronado—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and Toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)

June
Fiestas Pattronales Trinidad de Moravia, San Pedro de Montes de Oca, Leon Cortes, and San Jeronimo—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and Toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Día de los Padres—Father's day
Fiesta San Juan de Tibas—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and Toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Día de San Pedro y San Pablo—Saint Peter and Saint Paul's day marked by processions and masses.

July
Fiesta de La Virgen del Mar—The Fiesta of the Virgin of the Sea on the Saturday closest to the 16th is marked in Puntarenas by a procession of decorated fishing boats carrying a statue of La Virgen del Monte Carmelo (the city's patron saint) and a special mass. The secular celebrations include a week of parades, dances, regattas, parades and fireworks. Playas del Coco also celebrates the Virgin of the Sea.
Día de Guanacaste—Guanacaste Day celebrates the annexation of Guancaste from Nicaragua in 1824. Street fiestas, folk dancing, topes (horse show/parade), traditional bullfights, rodeos and cattle shows are particularily colorful and exhuberant in the eponymous northwest region of Guanacaste and the Nicoya peninsula.

August
Virgen de Los Angeles—National holiday celebrating the patron saint of Costa Rica, La Negrita. Special masses and a religious procession from San José to La Basilica de Cartago. Pilgrims come from all over the country, many on foot to celebrate the mass at Cartago.
Fiesta Ciudad Colon (San Carlos)—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and Toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Día de la Madre, Feast of the Assumption—Mother's day is a national bank, school and business holiday in Costa Rica
Fiesta Pattronale Aserri—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and Toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
National Parks Day—Special events in the major National Parks around Costa Rica

September
Independence Day—Costa Rica gained independence from Spain on the same day as the rest of Central America in 1821. The nationwide celebration starts with parades, traditional dancers, and street parties and culminates with the arrival of the Freedom Torch in Cartago (delivered from Nicaragua by relay runners) when everyone in the country stops and simultaneously sings the national anthem. Children later enjoy faroles parades where they carry small lanterns through their towns.

October
Fiesta Pattronale San Francisco de Dos Ríos—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and Toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)

Founding Day—A week of local celebrations in San Isidro de El General including street fairs and fiestas, dancing and sporting events culminates in the fiesta marking the founding of the town.
Carnival—Shades of Río on the streets of Límon, this celebration of Columbus' arrival in the new world culminates on the twelfth (Columbus day)
Día de la Raza—Columbus day commemerates the arrival of Columbus in the new world and caps off several days of Carnival on the Caribbean coast.
Fiesta Pattronale Escazú—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and Toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Halloween—Relatively new to Costa Rica but gaining popularity rapidly as the youngsters pick up on the concept of trick-or-treat

November
Día de los Muertos—All Soul's Day is observed across Costa Rica with Catholic masses and pilgrimages to graveyards.
Coffee Picking Contests—Local communities throughout the Meseta Central and mountains sponsor coffee picking contests in November.
El Desfile de Carretas—One of the largest parades of ox-carts (the other is the Día de los Boyeros the second week in March) takes place in San José the last week in November.

December​
Festival de la Luz—San José's week long festival of lights is marked by lighting displays and concerts and fireworks after dark in the park.
Fiesta Pattronale Pavas—Street fair with music, dancing, traditional food and Toro a la Tica (bullfights without the bloodshed)
Immaculate conception, Fiesta de los Negritos—Formerly a national holiday now celebrated with religious processions, masses, and costumed dancing
Fiesta de la Yeguita—Bullfights and a parade followed by a party in the parque central of Nicoya with food, concerts and fireworks.
Misa de Gallo—Christmas eve midnight mass. (Literally, Mass of the Rooster.)
Christmas Week—Although not an official holiday the week preceeding Christmas is so commonly observed that it might as well be. A very popular time for Ticos to head to the beach.
Christmas Day—Family gatherings and Christmas mass
Tope Caballos—A horse parade through downtown San José proudly displays the equine traditions and unique Criollo breed.

National Symbols

The Flag: designed by The First Lady, Pacífica Fernández Oreamuno in 1848, the flag was designed after the ideals of the French Revolution using the colors of the French national flag representing freedom, equality, and brotherhood. Each color represents important aspects of Costa Rica. Blue means the sky, opportunities at reach, intellectual thinking, perseverance to accomplish a goal, infinity, eternity, and ideals of religious and spiritual desires. White means clear thinking, happiness, wisdom, power and beauty of the sky, the driving force of initiatives to search for new endeavors, and the peace of Costa Rica. Red means the warmth of Costa Rican people, their love to live, their blood shed for freedom, and their generous attitude.

National Shield: created in 1848 illustrates seven stars above the volcanoes. The seven stars represent the seven provinces. There is a blue ribbon at the top that has printed on it America Central. Below the blue ribbon is a white ribbon that has Republica de Costa Rica printed on it. There are two branches of myrtle closing the coat of arms which represent peace. The Atlantic and Pacific oceans are depicted in the shield. A rising sun in the background shows prosperity. The merchant ship is meant to represent the exchange that Costa Rica does with the rest of the world. 

National Bird: El yiguirro was designated as national bird in November of 1976. This bird is located throughout the country. and it represents earth's fertility and is the symbol of rain. The yiguirro sings to call the rain and it generally sings at the beginning of the rainy season which starts in April. 

National Tree: “Arbol de Guanacaste” is the symbol of growth and equilibrium. It was designated as Costa Rica's national tree on August, 1959. It is found in Central America's coastal regions, Cuba and in the Antilles. 

National Flower: La Guaria Morada is an orchid that was chosen as Costa Rica's national flower on June 15, 1939. Costa Rican prize the flower and associate it with the beauty of Costa Rican ladies. According to traditions, the "Guaria Morada" brings fortune and good luck. Supposedly, it brings union and family, understanding, and evokes peace and love as well as hope for the future. The flower actually does not emit a fragrance. This type of orchid grows on trees, roofs, and buildings. It gets nutrients from the air, rain, dust, and residues stored on the trunk of trees.

National Motto: “Pura Vida” the country’s does not actually have an official national motto. However, if you want a phrase that describes ticos "pura vida" will be the most exact one. Meaning “pure life” it is used by most ticos to show or demonstrate approval or happiness toward certain situations, and they also use it as a greeting and way to say good bye. When it is said, it usually evokes positive emotions which reminds one the beauty of the country. The Institute of Tourism’s motto for the country is Costa Rica, no artificial ingredients. 

Oxcarts: the oxcart was designated National Labor Symbol on March 22, 1988, is a rustic strong vehicle with two compact wheels moved by two oxen. Oxcarts are driven by people known as “Boyeros” in Costa Rica. The carts have been used for years as a major means of transportation of goods, especially coffee. Even though the oxcarts lost popularity around World War II due to new innovations in transportation, many farmers continued to use them. Additionally, the oxcart has become such a symbol and artistic piece that many Costa Ricans have one even if it is just the size of a paper weight. The carts are often decorated and hand painted with bright lively colors in geometric patterns, a trend that started in the early 20th century. The oxcarts represent how hard working Costa Ricans are and also humility, patience, endurance, and progress.

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