Memories from Costa Rica

By Lorelly Solano


For Costa Ricans, December is the most wonderful time of the year! A colder breeze (the trade winds) announces the arrival of the Holidays, as well as conversations about tamales and seasonal parades.

A timeless tradition for Catholic Costa Rican families is the representation of the Nativity, which we call “portal”, “nacimiento”, or “pasito de navidad” in Spanish. At the beginning of December, each family sets up a nativity at their homes, which is a combination of faith and creativity. Some families opt for minimalistic styles, while others try to capture every detail of the landscape!



My family is one of those. My older brother has always had a fascination for nativities that he continues to have to this day. Growing up, he would always set up the nativity while my sister and I decorated the tree. As an adult, he is now a nativity collector! Visiting his house during the Holidays is like visiting a museum!


The best part of the nativity tradition is that, starting on January 6th (the coming of the Maggi), we visit everyone’s home to celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus. The gathering involves the traditional party menu of “Arroz con Pollo” (rice with chicken), refried beans, Russian salad (a creamy beet and potato salad that Melissa loves), and potato chips (highly regarded as a side dish!). For dessert, we would enjoy cookies, “queque seco” (which is similar to a pound cake with probably less butter), and “Rompope” (eggnog). Naturally, we gain some weight in December.

There is much to say about the nativity tradition, but I focused on the beauty of the mangers, the reunion of friends and family, and the comfort food! These are precisely the things that one misses when away from home.

The Covid-19 pandemic will not allow us to celebrate parades and family reunions this time, but our nativities will be a reminder of our renewed hope for the future.  Despite the distance, I maintain the tradition at my U.S. home. Each December 24, at midnight, Baby Jesus is reborn in our Costa Rican wood-carved nativity, right here in Wye Mills.


May the joy and the hope of the season stay with you throughout the New Year!



Published on December 11, 2020.