Easter Week Traditions in Costa Rica

I will like to write about this coming event that is very important for Catholic/Christian Community and Costaricans .I am not religious at all but this is part of my family and country tradition that I enjoy also. This coming week is extremely important for all Catholic/Christians. The greatest focus of the week is the Passion (suffering) and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the events that led up to it.

During Holy week (Semana Santa) all banks, museums, government offices and public services are closed between Holy Thursday until after Easter Monday, so  every Costa Rican family are already planning their escape and vacations to the beach, rivers, mountains or just family home.

The holy week starts on March 20th  with Palm Sunday ( Domingo de Ramos), which marks Jesus’ triumhant entry into Jerusalem . In the Catholic celebration many churches use processions into or around the church to recreate Jesus’ path through Jerusalem, after the mass  gives out sprays of palm leaves. The represenation sometimes bring a Jesus riding a donkey sometimes.

Palm Sunday Celebration in Escazu, Costa Rica
Palm Sunday Celebration in Escazu, Costa Rica.  Source Acción Social UCR

Holy Thursday March 24th ‘The Last Supper” because that was the day in which Christ gathered with his followers for the Passover Seder.To Christians, this is the “Last Supper,” where Christ instituted the Christian concept of sharing communion.

Good Friday’s March 25th “The Crucifixion” , one of the most somber days in the Christian calendar, marks the day of Christ’s crucifixion.

Holy Saturday March 26th   “Entombment of Christ”, it commemorates the day Christ remained buried in a tomb, the darkest day for early Christians. Since Jewish law would not allow any of the preparations for burial to be carried out on the Sabbath, the tomb was closed to keep the body safe until the mourners returned on Sunday.

Easter Sunday March 27th is the celebration of the joyous news of Christ’s triumphant victory over death.”The Resurrection of Christ”.

The Rest of the Week; Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are regular days, no many activities or celebratios.

Some  curious Facts in holy week-

1- Abstinence from eating meat  the entire week ,  seafood and fish dishes are popular during this time, and dishes made with corn and pumpkin  as well. Dont miss the opportunity to taste different meals  and fresh seafood like rosquillas and Chiverre honey.

2.  We tell our children do not go in the beach or river on holy thursday or holy  Friday, they  may become a fish if they swim on these days.

3. Drive a vehicle during holy week is a sin. Some small towns put nails in the streets to anyone who desides to do it.

4.  In many towns, The Dry Law is in place, alcohol is not for sale starting midnight on Ash Wednesday through midnight on Good Friday.

How Ticos Celebrate?

Many Ticos (Costa Ricans) simply bring hammocks to the beach, or sleep right on the sand, camp in the side of the rivers or stay in home with all the family and watch the classic religious films in local Channels(Teletica, Repretel and SINART) like the 10 Commandments, The Arc, Kind David, David and Goliat, Spartacus, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ ,The bible, The Robe,  the DreamWorks animated classic, The Prince of Egypt for the kids or just watch the TV transmission of  The procession in San Joaquin de Flores de Heredia that includes an actor for every person that was present at the scene of Christ’s death, or Vatican mass or event.

Dramatic processions of the journey of Jesus in Heredia.
Dramatic processions of the journey of Jesus in Heredia. Source La Nacion

The beaches will be packed of Ticos, and you’ll almost certainly be invited to toast the holiday with the locals . And, if you’re interested in more traditional events, most major towns and cities offer more serious observations of the Holy Week.

Catholic churches, most notably in Cartago and Heredia, organize elaborate, costumed processions on Good Friday, depicting Jesus Christ’s last day before the crucifixion. Called the Via Crucis, or Via Dolorosa, these follow a representation of Jesus, sometimes portrayed by an actor dragging the cross, or more often a carved statue carried on a litter by volunteers.

There are dozens of other more typically Tico traditions associated with Semana Santa, however, not all of them sanctioned by the Church. Some are:

La Quema de Judas, in many towns, Judas the Betrayer is burned in effigy on the Holy Saturday before Easter, accompanied by lots of fireworks. In Liberia the celebration will be Holy Friday  from 6:00 pm next to plaza Rodriguez by the stadium.

Lagarteada(Croc Chase) In Ortega,Santa Cruz, Guanacaste, local people capture a live crocodile with their bare hands, and keep it in a pen (with the blessing of MINAE-conservation entity-, if not the Vatican) as part of the Lagarteada, a celebration that almost certainly predates the Spanish Conquest, a tradition of 200 years.  This event is Good Friday that involves capturing a giant crocodile with their bare hands and tying it up to put on display in the center of town. The event is under the supervisionof Red Croos and the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Technology.

Lagarteada in Santa Cruz. Pic Nestor Baltodano
Lagarteada in Santa Cruz. Pic Nestor Baltodano

Chiverry honey. In Costa Rica, Holy Week isn’t complete without the chiverre (Cucurbita ficifolia), a type of local squash. Chiverres are traditionally harvested a few  weeks before Semana Santa so that Ticos can make sweet preserves or jam in time for the holidays. The recipe includes tapa de dulce (a traditional unrefined sugar), cinnamon and cloves. Chiverres also are used to make empanadas.

Chiverre Source Canal 9

I will be more than happy to recommend you to go and particpate in those activities, to know better of our Tradition even if you are not religious person. Well, got to go and have a great Easter!



Periodico La Provincia

Accion Social UCR


Si Cultura 

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