Easter (Semana Santa) in Costa Rica

Culture is reflected in customs and one of the most traditional times of the year in Costa Rica are the days leading up to Easter Sunday. Seasonal dishes, time spent with the family and religious processions are ways Costa Ricans from all over the country participate in the Easter tradition.

 Ash Wednesday begins the 40-day period before Easter known as “Lent” with mass and symbolic ashen crosses placed on each believer’s forehead. There are also individual promises for abstinence, including not consuming meat on Fridays. Meatless tamales, the ‘tamal mudo’, an increase in ‘arroz con palmito’ or ‘arroz con verduras’, and a supply of bean & cheese empanadas are common.  Each Thursday, locals in their individual neighborhoods participate in open community “Stations of the Cross” with families setting up altars in front of their homes to remember the events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion, death and resurrection.

Until about 10 years ago, the tradition was for Costa Ricans to have the entire Easter week off in coordination with governmental offices, which shut down for the full week. Today, Easter Thursday and Good Friday remain the primary days of observation and many Costa Ricans also take advantage of spending time with the family at the beach.  On Wednesday afternoon, there is a mass exodus from the Central Valley towards the coasts for relaxation along palm lined beaches and time in the sun.  It is not uncommon to see entire extended families camping out, disconnected from their daily routines.

For those remaining in the Central Valley, the Easter weekend itself is filled with planned activities in San Joaquin de Flores, where CPI Heredia is located. This area is renown for its live re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, with thousands from all over Costa Rica coming to witness the artistry of the San Joaquineños performing the solemn portrayal of Christ’s death. After the processions families gather together for coffee and Easter breads.

Studying Spanish at CPI during this unique time of year allows our students to experience Easter in Costa Rica and all the special cultural traditions during this time of year.

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