Celebrating Easter in Costa Rica is definitely different than that in the United States. For one, Easter celebration among Americans would start on Thursday and eventually culminating on Sunday – where everyone, especially the children, looks forward to hunting Easter eggs. Although Easter is a Christianholiday, some Americans treat it more as a secular celebration rather than a religious one.
How do Costa Ricans celebrate Easter? Interestingly, Easter is one holiday that most Costa Ricans look forward to. This is because it is one of the most religious celebrations with all the schools and government institutions closed for the entire week. Most locals take this time to have their annual vacations and family reunions away from home. This is also the time where you can expect a lot of traffic going towards the beach, with 80% or higher hotel occupancy — peaking from Wednesday and onwards towards the weekend.
If you are coming to Costa Rica during the Holy Week, you will certainly find a great deal of religious activities going on. As a matter of fact, expect a whole lot of activities right in the heart of the capital of San Jose. Other than the fact that it is a religious event, most activities, like the yearly processions, are culturally inclined. Expect to see participants in costumes bringing the Easter story to life and the city filled with colorful floats and the smell of incense.
What are the main events not to miss?
- The celebration will start on Palm Sunday, a week before Easter, at the Our Lady of Solitude Church which is followed by the procession of the Lord of Triumph.
- On Tuesday, the National Band will be performing at the Metropolitan Cathedral at 6:30pm.
- Wednesday, the following day, the San Jose Municipal band will perform at Central Park.
- On Thursday, the Silent Procession will leave Central park and head to the El Carmen church starting at 7:30pm.
- Definitely, you must not miss the Holy Friday procession where you will find “Jesus carrying the cross on the road to Calvary”. The crucifixion will be re-enacted at Central Park where a huge crowd of both locals and tourists will gather. The internment procession will start at dusk, which will be accompanied by the National and Municipal bands, going towards the Metropolitan Cathedral.
- Finally, the much-awaited resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday will be celebrated at La Merced Church.
Another place you must visit is San Joaquin de las Flores — a small town in Heredia. Recently, it has gained a lot of popularity for its Easter procession where participants in wonderful looking costumes reenact the Easter story — definitely worth visiting.
It is important to note that during this time, selling alcohol is prohibited on Thursday and Friday. Stores, bars and restaurants are strictly banned and if found guilty, they will have to pay a huge fine for their infraction, so plan accordingly.
How are you planning to celebrate Easter this year? What are your favorite family traditions?
Article by Sara Ford, freelance writer for Vamos Rent-A-Car, exploring Costa Rican life through travel and traffic.