Semana Santa is the week leading up to Easter Sunday, and it’s a BIG deal here in Costa Rica! Safe to say, it is one the most important holidays in the country. Almost every Tico has the week off of work and the kids are out of school. The celebrations and festivities are endless!
Costa Rica’s population is 76% Catholic, hence the reason why Semana Santa is especially important to the culture. This week-long celebration is centered around religious processions, prayers, mass, traditions, and spending time with the entire family.
In every town, the Catholic Church organizes events to take place on Holy Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. One of the most important religious traditions is the grand procession which is a reenactment of Jesus going to the cross. People from all over Costa Rica travel to Cartago on Friday to witness the biggest procession in the country.
When traveling around, you may notice purple-draped crosses in many front yards or on houses. The purple represents Jesus and then switches to black drapes on Good Friday and white drapes on Easter Sunday. These decorations are important for practicing Catholics.
Many Costa Ricans believe that you should not swim in the ocean on Holy Thursday or Good Friday. If you do, God will become angry and turn you into a fish! Or climbing a tree may cause you to grow a tail…
Another superstition involves an indigenous fig tree. At midnight on Good Friday the Higueron de cabuya blooms but Satan hides in the tree. If you are able to pluck a flower without the devil noticing then you will win the next lottery and be rich forever!
It is also rumored that hot weather causes more earthquakes to happen. On the bright side, Semana Santa is also thought to be the week with the most beautiful sunsets!
Semana Santa Foods
Due to Holy traditions, many Ticos do not consume any pork or beef during Semana Santa. Instead families enjoy plenty of fish. Arroz y frijoles con(Rice and beans with fish) and ceviche are the main dishes on the menu.
Chiverre is another staple of Semana Santa. This large squash is in season for the holidays and ends up as a filling for various pastries or empanadas. The preparation of chiverre can take days!
In Guanacaste, many take advantage of all the mangoes in season. Families gather these juicy fruits and make mango marmalade. Sweets are a definite favorite for Semana Santa!
An estimated 1.5 million Ticos visit the beach for Semana Santa! For those who aren’t very religious, Semana Santa is also the time for partying. You will see a mass exodus to the beach from the central valley. Be prepared for crowded beaches, packed restaurants, and plenty of traffic!
Semana Santa is one of the busiest weeks of the year. Make sure to be well stocked on groceries and have your reservations in place. As long as you don’t mind large crowds of people, Semana Santa is a very exciting week. It is one of the best times to experience traditional Costa Rican foods, culture, and celebration.
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