Costa Rica
Christmas Around the World
Reagan Library Christmas Tree Exhibit

Costa Rica

Christmas Traditions


Costa Rica is primarily Catholic, and Costa Ricans observe Christmas with exuberance. Christmas in Costa Rica commences with Festival de la Luz, held the second week of December. Christmas trees are a huge part of Christmas in Costa Rica. Nativity scenes are standard Costa Rican Christmas decorations, called pasitos or portals. Tamales are one staple of the Costa Rican Christmas dinner, pastries, and other Costa Rican desserts like tres leches cake.

Updated July 2024
Posted December 2023


Costa Rica Flag

Costa Rican Christmas Tree
Costa Rican Christmas Tree

In SpanishFeliz Navidad

Costa Rican Christmas Ornaments

Costa Rican Christmas Ornaments

Costa Rican Christmas Ornaments Pura Vida

Tucan Christmas Ornament

Costa Rican Sun Christmas Ornament

Costa Rican Christmas Ornaments

Bananas Christmas Ornaments

Costa Rican Christmas Ornaments

Costa Rican Christmas Ornaments

Costa Rican Christmas Ornaments

Raccoon Christmas Ornaments

Ronald Reagan Costa Rica
December 4, 1982
President Reagan and Luis Alberto Monge Alvarez during departure on Air Force One from Juan Santamaria International Airport during trip to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica

WIKIPEDIAThe Republic of Costa Rica
A country in the Central American region of North America. Costa Rica is bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, Panama to the southeast, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, as well as maritime border with Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around five million in a land area of 51,060 km2 (19,710 sq mi). An estimated 333,980 people live in the capital and largest city, San Jose, with around two million people in the surrounding metropolitan area.

The sovereign state is a unitary presidential constitutional republic. It has a long-standing and stable democracy and a highly educated workforce. The country spends roughly 6.9% of its budget (2016) on education, compared to a global average of 4.4%. Its economy, once heavily dependent on agriculture, has diversified to include sectors such as finance, corporate services for foreign companies, pharmaceuticals, and ecotourism. Many foreign manufacturing and services companies operate in Costa Rica's Free Trade Zones (FTZ) where they benefit from investment and tax incentives.

Costa Rica was inhabited by indigenous peoples before coming under Spanish rule in the 16th century. It remained a peripheral colony of the empire until independence as part of the First Mexican Empire, followed by membership in the Federal Republic of Central America, from which it formally declared independence in 1847. Following the brief Costa Rican Civil War in 1948, it permanently abolished its army in 1949, becoming one of only a few sovereign nations without a standing army.

The country has consistently performed favorably in the Human Development Index (HDI), placing 58th in the world as of 2022, and fifth in Latin America. It has also been cited by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as having attained much higher human development than other countries at the same income levels, with a better record on human development and inequality than the median of the region. It also performs well in comparisons of democratic governance, press freedom, subjective happiness and sustainable well being. It has the 8th freest press according to the Press Freedom Index, it is the 35th most democratic country according to the Freedom in the World index and is the 23rd happiest country in the 2023 World Happiness Report.

  • Stone tools, the oldest evidence of human occupation in Costa Rica, are associated with the arrival of various groups of hunter-gatherers about 10,000 to 7,000 years BCE in the Turrialba Valley.
  • Agriculture became evident in the populations that lived in Costa Rica about 5,000 years ago.
  • The earliest use of pottery appears around 2,000 to 3,000 BCE. Shards of pots, cylindrical vases, platters, gourds, and other forms of vases decorated with grooves, prints, and some modeled after animals have been found.
  • Most of the native population was absorbed into the Spanish-speaking colonial society through inter-marriage.
  • Like the rest of Central America, Costa Rica never fought for independence from Spain. On 15 September 1821, after the final Spanish defeat in the Mexican War of Independence (1810–1821), the authorities in Guatemala declared the independence of all of Central America. That date is still celebrated as Independence Day in Costa Rica even though, technically, under the Spanish Constitution of 1812 that had been readopted in 1820, Nicaragua and Costa Rica had become an autonomous province with its capital in Leon.
  • In 1838, long after the Federal Republic of Central America ceased to function in practice, Costa Rica formally withdrew and proclaimed itself sovereign. The considerable distance and poor communication routes between Guatemala City and the Central Plateau, where most of the Costa Rican population lived then and still lives now, meant the local population had little allegiance to the federal government in Guatemala. Since colonial times, Costa Rica has been reluctant to become economically tied with the rest of Central America. Even today, despite most of its neighbors' efforts to increase regional integration, Costa Rica has remained more independent.
  • Coffee was first planted in Costa Rica in 1808, and by the 1820s, it surpassed tobacco, sugar, and cacao as a primary export. Coffee production remained Costa Rica's principal source of wealth well into the 20th century, creating a wealthy class of growers, the so-called Coffee Barons. The revenue helped to modernize the country.
  • Costa Rica borders the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Costa Rica also borders Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south.
  • Costa Rica experiences a tropical climate year-round. There are two seasons. The dry season is December to April, and the rainy season is May to November.
  • Many foreign companies (manufacturing and services) operate in Costa Rica's Free Trade Zones where they benefit from investment and tax incentives. Companies with facilities in the America Free Zone in Heredia, for example, include Intel, Dell, HP, Bayer, Bosch, DHL, IBM and Okay Industries.
  • Of the GDP, 5.5% is generated by agriculture, 18.6% by industry and 75.9% by services. Pharmaceuticals, financial outsourcing, software development, and ecotourism have become the prime industries in Costa Rica's economy.
  • The central location provides access to American markets and direct ocean access to Europe and Asia. The most important exports in 2015 (in order of dollar value) were medical instruments, bananas, tropical fruits, integrated circuits and orthopedic appliances.
  • Costa Rica is the most-visited nation in the Central American region. Tourism generates more revenue and foreign exchange than bananas and coffee combined.
  • Costa Rica is composed of seven provinces, which in turn are divided into 82 cantons (Spanish: canton, plural cantones), each of which is directed by a mayor. Mayors are chosen democratically every four years by each canton. There are no provincial legislatures. The cantons are further divided into 488 districts (distritos).
  • Costa Rica is an active member of the United Nations
  • On 1 December 1948, Costa Rica abolished its military force. In 1949, the abolition of the military was introduced in Article 12 of the Costa Rican Constitution. The budget previously dedicated to the military is now dedicated to providing health care services and education.
  • The 2022 census counted a total population of 5,044,197 people. In 2011, there were over 104,000 Native American or indigenous inhabitants, representing 2.4% of the population.
  • The 2011 census classified 83.6% of the population as white. The population includes European Costa Ricans (of European ancestry), primarily of Spanish descent, with significant numbers of Italian, German, English, Dutch, French, Irish, Portuguese, and Polish families, as well a sizable Jewish community. The majority of the Afro-Costa Ricans are Creole English-speaking descendants of 19th century black Jamaican immigrant workers.
  • Most Costa Ricans identify with a Christian religion, with Catholicism being the one with the largest number of members and also the official state religion according to the 1949 Constitution, which at the same time guarantees freedom of religion. Costa Rica is the only modern state in the Americas which currently has Catholicism as its state religion
  • The primary language spoken in Costa Rica is Spanish, which features characteristics distinct to the country, a form of Central American Spanish. Costa Rica is a linguistically diverse country and home to at least five living local indigenous languages spoken by the descendants of pre-Columbian peoples: Maleku, Cabecar, Bribri, Guaymí, and Buglere.
  • The literacy rate in Costa Rica is approximately 97 percent and English is widely spoken primarily due to Costa Rica's tourism industry. When the army was abolished in 1949, it was said that the "army would be replaced with an army of teachers".
  • Costa Rican cuisine is a blend of Native American, Spanish, African, and many other cuisine origins. Dishes such as the very traditional tamale and many others made of corn are the most representative of its indigenous inhabitants, and similar to other neighboring Mesoamerican countries. Spaniards brought many new ingredients to the country from other lands, especially spices and domestic animals. And later in the 19th century, the African flavor lent its presence with influence from other Caribbean mixed flavors. This is how Costa Rican cuisine today is very varied, with every new ethnic group who had recently become part of the country's population influencing the country's cuisine.
  • Football is the most popular sport in Costa Rica. The national team has played in five FIFA World Cup tournaments and reached the quarter-finals for the first time in 2014.

EtymologyThe name la costa rica, meaning "rich coast" in the Spanish language, was in some accounts first applied by Christopher Columbus, who sailed to the eastern shores of Costa Rica during his final voyage in 1502, and reported vast quantities of gold jewelry worn by natives.

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