Victoria from Costa Rica: "Dear friends, I would like to share a little bit about Costa Rica's most important Christmas customs."
We set up the "pasito", a little manger with a figure of Jesus and other decorations, to spread Christmas cheer. Sometimes the displays are really funny, because they will include figures that have nothing to do with Christmas, like small airplanes, while individual figures will just be thrown together. Around February we say rosaries for the Christ child and put special sweets in the manger. All of this is a Catholic, very devout tradition.
We also set up the Christmas tree, hang presents on it, and open them on December 24 at midnight. There is always a large cypress tree near my house. We always set up the tree on December 1 and the smell of the cypress spreads throughout the house. Many families set up artificial trees, but those lack the special smell.
As for Christmas food, we make tamales. Very few people eat turkey on Christmas, but more eat tamales and some eat pork, too. Rice with chicken is also common. But back to the tamales. These are homemade pastries consisting of corn dough, rice and pork or chicken (or vegetarian style) with chilli peppers, carrots and so on. I add raisins, olives and chickpeas. They are then tied with banana peels and boiled in water.
Sometimes the whole family helps prepare the tamales since it's an elaborate process. It's also fun. For dessert, at my home there is always a Christmas cake with nuts, many candied fruits, almonds, and other ingredients. I always bake about 10 cakes to send to the entire family.
Christmas dinner is a tradition that brings the entire family to the table – at least, almost the entire family, since my son, his wife, and children live in Canada. It is always a joy to be with family on Christmas Eve, although it is a bit hard to gather everybody under the same roof. Some are vegetarians, others gladly eat meat and still others are vegans.
There are a few other traditions, such as Advent, that come from other countries, but I don't want to bore you.
I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!