Like almost every year, I tried to escape the Christmas rush. And like almost every year, I ended up right in the middle of it. Since in Costa Rica they also celebrate Christmas, which is actually no surprise. And since I live with a nice Tico family, I couldn’t avoid the merry Christmas.
Superficially, there are no huge differences between Germany and Costa Rica when it comes to Christmas (apart from the fact that people work in Costa Rica on December 26th): People shop as if there was no tomorrow, in the shops it glitters everywhere, and Santa Clauses climb up the facades with bag and baggage (which is quite a drudgery in the awful heat). The hustle and bustle is accompanied by cheerful Xmas songs in Spanish and English.
The decoration on the private properties reminds a little bit more of Christmas in North America, although the electricity costs are much higher in this country: On the house facades it glitters and flashes and in the gardens brightly lit Santa Clauses go sledding with their followers. Colorful decorated Christmas trees with baubles, bows and angels are a must in every household. But the most important thing is the crib that is either in front of or in the house and is often several meters long. The Christmas crib includes Mary and Joseph, the Three Wise Men, a hut, animals and lots of moss. There are no limits to the imagination, often whole landscapes are created.
„My“ family was invited to the parents of Raquel’s friend Luis on Christmas Eve (after Maria Elena, my host mother, had been standing in the kitchen all day, and wrapping dozens of presents for her daughter Raquel and granddaughter Amanda). I was also allowed to come along, which was very nice, because Luis‘ family knew me even less than my host family. But hospitality is very important for the Ticos, as the Costa Ricans like to call themselves.
Raquel’s future in-laws also live in Heredia, but far away from the center, in the countryside. There we could even see many stars that competed with the sparkling Christmas lights on the outer facade. The nativity scene, which took up half a room, was really impressive and the whole pride of mother-in-law Cecilia. After we had admired it properly, Maria Elena’s delicious meal was served: pork tenderloin with vegetables, potatoes and black bean puree. The dessert of Cecilia (orange jelly) could definitely keep up with the main course. The toast was non-alcoholic sparkling wine, so that everyone could join in. Luis Senior thanked the whole family for having gathered to celebrate Christmas together. After we had finished our meal, Luis brothers (who are also all named Luis), Luis, Raquel and I switched to „Imperial Silver“ (beer with alcohol). We needed that too, because now it was time to open the presents. Before that I had already told them that in Germany there is as much going on in the shops after Christmas as there is before Christmas: because all the people returned or exchanged their presents…
Before the gifts are presented, many people in Costa Rica go to church (this was not the case with my family). And they make sure the children do not unwrap their presents until midnight. But some children are understandably very impatient and start opening their presents well before midnight. Like Amanda, who also needed the time because she had been richly rewarded. From 11 p.m. onwards, the adults were allowed to find their presents under the tree and open them. End of the story: Maria Elena’s blouse was way too large, Amanda’s roller skates too, and Luis‘ sports shoes too small. And tomorrow they will exchange everything… It’s just similar to our habits in Germany. But, anyway, it was a funny evening and not at all melancholic – like sometimes in Germany.