Catholicism is practised by around 76% of Costa Ricans, making it one of the most influential religions in the country. This fact alone demonstrates the significance of Holy Week and Easter in Costa Rica. If you want to visit Costa Rica and learn how they commemorate this event, we welcome you to review the information below.
What happens in Costa Rica during Holy Week and Easter?
To provide some context, Holy Week (Semana Santa in Spanish) is when Catholics and Christians commemorate Jesus Christ's passion, death, and resurrection.
In 2023, Holy Week will be held from Sunday, April 2nd to Saturday, April 8th, with Easter falling on Sunday, April 9th.
Why does the date of Holy Week shift from year to year?
Holy Week has no set dates compared to other statutory festivals such as Christmas, Independence Day, Halloween, etc. The dates are determined by the start of spring and the lunar calendar, which marks Catholic Easter yearly. Dates often fall between the end of March and the beginning, middle, and sometimes end of April.
What does Holy Week mean to Costa Ricans?
Holy Week or Easter week has distinct meanings for Costa Ricans. For some, Easter is a time of meditation in which they recall Jesus Christ's life and sacrifice on the cross. Others see it as a moment to unwind and unwind from work, while others see it as a space dedicated to sharing with family, which Ticos highly appreciate. Whatever way Costa Ricans spend this occasion, traditional food, rituals, and religious rites are essential ties or common denominators.
In Costa Rica, Holy Week, or "Semana Santa," as the locals name it, is associated with preparing traditional meals rarely seen at other times of the year.
Costa Ricans relish traditional Holy Week foods with various textures, flavours, and scents. Some of the most popular dishes are escabeche (a mixture of vegetables cooked "al dente" and preserved in vinegar), rosquillas (hardened and rounded corn baked biscuits), rice with hearts of palm, fish or shellfish soup, stuffed bread, pickles, stews made from leaves and flowers, bitter leaves and hearts of palm, mute tamales (made only with corn dough) or loaded with beans, mustard hash, chicasquil or potato, sponge cake.
Miel de Chiverre
If you have a sweet tooth, we welcome you to enjoy the most well-known traditional sweet in Costa Rica during these festivities: miel de chiverre, also known as chiverre honey. If you've never seen or heard of chiverre, prepare to see it on every street corner during Easter week. Chiverre has the appearance of a watermelon on the outside and the feel of a pumpkin on the inside. During Easter Week, ticos eat miel de chiverre on toast (it has a jam-like texture), in empanadas, or simply with a spoon.
Superstitions and Traditions
It is typical for church members and clergy to hold processions, retain certain customs, and recall and practise a few superstitions throughout the week.
Each city holds traditional processions on Holy Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. Each parade commemorates Jesus' Passion, including his trek through Jerusalem, crucifixion, and resurrection. Participants dress up as Roman troops and authorities who executed Jesus. Additional procession participants include the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Saint Joseph, the apostles, and angels. Volunteers from the community take their roles extremely seriously, and you can feel how much they enjoy performing and spreading spiritual awareness and devotion.
Costa Ricans commonly practise the following traditions:
Flowers, sawdust, or fruit carpets. These masterpieces are made in the streets to pass various processions.
Feet washing during Holy Thursday Mass. This symbolic activity represents the washing of Jesus' disciples' feet at the Last Supper.
Pilgrimage to the seven temples. On Holy Thursday, seven random churches are visited, signifying Jesus' pilgrimage after learning.
Living Via Crucis. On Good Friday, many periods in Jesus' life preceding his crucifixion are represented.
The burning of Judas or Juan Carnival occurs during the day on Good Friday; it involves burning a rag doll that portrays Jesus' betrayal.
Quiet procession. It takes place on Good Friday night, with lighted candles. The goal is to raise awareness and inspire reflection on the day's events.
The Rosary prayer is notably done on Holy Saturday as a symbolic gesture to support Mary's sadness.
Easter Sunday is a joyful and festive day commemorating Jesus' Resurrection, representing the beginning of a new cycle or a new life.
Abstinence from Red Meat
Many religious Costa Ricans abstain from eating red meat on Good Friday in honour of Jesus, who gave his body for humanity.
Many stories have become legendary among Ticos and have been passed down through centuries. These are a couple of Easter-related words:
If you swim on Good Friday, you will change into a fish.
You will develop a tail if you claim a tree on Good Friday.