National Celebrations and Holidays

January

New Years Day January 1st – after a night of fireworks, dancing, music and drinking; businesses and public organizations are closed for a family day.

Palmares Festivals are held in early January.  Activities include live music, horse shows, fun-fair and the very popular televised bull rodeos and ‘fighting’.  The famed partying of past years is becoming toned down as drink-driving laws and monitoring are being more strictly enforced.

Santa Cruz and Alajuelita Festivals are held in half-way through January in honor of the Black Christ of Esquipulas.  In Santa Cruz, you can expect to enjoy traditional activities of Guanacaste, such as marimba music, folk dancing, whooping and cowboys showing their skills with bulls and horses.  In Alajuela, you can enjoy the ox-cart parade and walk to the Cross.

The Mule Festival in late January is found in Playas Esterillos on the Pacific Coast.  Highlights include mule races along the beach, as well as the usual fair, bull fights and partying.

February

San Isidro de General Festival is a traditional agricultural show with bullfighting too.  You can see farmers competing for prizes for cattle and other farm animals.  Flower shows brighten the event.

Sun Festival combines the old and the new by promoting solar power and the celebration of the Mayan New Year on the 25th of the month.

Liberia Festival is a celebration of all things Guanacastecan in the last week of the month.  You can enjoy concerts and a fair.

Puntarenas Festival is also held in the last week of the month and is a week of partying and pleasure.

Los Diablitos is a re-enactment of the Spanish conquest with the Boruca indigenous people playing the ‘Little Devils’ and the Spanish role taken by a bull.  Participants are masked and dance ancient steps in this end of the month celebration.

Monteverde Music Festival begins in February and lasts into March.  Popular Costa Rican musical acts perform in the cloud forest.

March

Ox-cart Drivers’ Day is held on the second Sunday of the month in San Antonio de Escazu and is a great opportunity to admire the famous folk art of ox-cart painting, as the oxen pull the wooden carts in a parade past the church to receive the priest’s annual blessing.

San Jose Day on the 19th March is no longer a national holiday but is still celebrated as the day of the capital’s patron saint with masses in churches across the country and the usual fairs and celebrations for the less pious!

Ujarras Church Pilgrimage takes place mid-March.  It is a religious parade from Cartago to Costa Rica’s fist church.

National Orchid Show in the middle of the month is a chance to see hundreds of the delicate and beautiful national flowers in San Jose.

Caribbean Music Festival begins at the end of the month and continues into the next.  Enjoy reggae and calypso music at Playa Chiquita in Limon.

April

Holy Week or Easter is the time when most Ticos take a vacation so expect beach towns to be heavily booked and heaving with people.  Religious parades are held nation-wide but look out for more spectacular efforts such as in San Joaquin de Flores.

Juan Santa Maria Day is on the 11th of April in honor of the country’s national hero who sacrificed his life to save Costa Rica from the invading William Walker.  Ticos all over the country celebrate with dancing and music.
May
Labor Day on the first of the month is a national holiday with some events such as parades organized by trade unions to mark the world recognized event.

San Isidro Day is celebrated in towns named after the patron saint of farmers on the 15th of the month with parades and parties.  Local priests may bless farm animals and crops.
June
July

Virgin of the Sea Festival sees the port of Puntarenas honor its patron saint with boats decked out to mark the occasion and both religious and  secular celebrations on the 16th of the month.

Annexation of Guanacaste Day is a national holiday to celebrate the area becoming Costa Rican territory, rather than Nicaraguan, by the choice of its inhabitants on the 25th of July, 1824.   Celebrations with parades are nation-wide but held with most enthusiasm in Guanacaste itself.

August

Virgin of Los Angeles Day is a national holiday held on the 2nd of the month.  It centers on the Black Virgin (La Negrita) in Cartago’s Basilica, which is the end point for pilgrims who walk from all over the country to pay tribute to the Virgin.

Mother’s Day on the 15th is seen as a chance to give gifts and a break to the most hard-working member of the family!

San Ramon Day on the 30th of the month is a religious occasion when the patron saints from churches surrounding San Ramon are carried to the town’s church with festivities to follow.

September

Lantern Night on the 14th is the pre-Independence Day celebration where school children parade through the streets at dusk with homemade lanterns singing national hymns.

Independence Day is widely and proudly celebrated with loud parades and parties.  The symbolic flame of independence that has been brought Olympic-style from Guatemala reaches Cartago.

Afro-Costa Rican Cultural Week is an opportunity to celebrate and learn about the history and culture of the residents of the Limon region with talks and discussions.


October

Limon Carnival is a colorful and loud week of Caribbean celebrations with a costumed parade with bands and floats, concerts and many other Caribbean treats in the second week of the month.

Race Day (sometimes known as Columbus Day) is held on the 12th of October.  In the past, it was in recognition of Columbus discovering the Americas but these days is a celebration of the different cultures that have contributed to make Costa Rica what it is today.

Corn Festival is held in the middle of the month in Upala as a celebration of the indigenous stable of Costa Rica.  Highlights include the crowning of the Corn Queen.

November

All Soul’s Day is when Costa Ricans tend the graves of deceased loved ones and remember them.

December

Festival of Lights is a televised event to mark the illumination of San Jose’s Christmas Lights in the first week of the month.  The spectacular nighttime event includes brightly-lit and elaborately decorated floats, dancers, bands and acrobats in a big parade.

Los Negritos Festival is in honor of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception which the Boruca indigenous people celebrate with an integration of their own beliefs with those of the Catholic Church in the second week of December.

Mare Festival is held on the 12th in Nicoya to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe with processions, concerts, fireworks and partying.

Posadas, where groups move form door to door singing festive songs and bringing the Christmas story to the local community, begin on the 15th.

Christmas Eve Mass on the 24th is attended by families who return home for further prayer and to place the baby Jesus figure into their nativity scene.

San Jose Horse Parade is the post-Christmas parade of cowboys and their mounts through the center of San Jose on the 26th.

San Jose Carnival is held the day after the horse parade with floats, music and fun!

Zapote Festival is an end of year party to end all parties.  Beginning towards the end of December, the fair, bullfights, music, food and gallons of Imperial draw huge crowds.

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