Costa Rica’s Top 5 Cultural Events
Costa Rica is much more than just beautiful beaches and breathtaking tropical landscapes. Once here, you can explore the culture, different traditions and festivities its citizens celebrate. During the past few years several local governments have sponsored massive cultural events to attract locals and travelers, and create positive atmosphere of multicultural exchange.
The main art event in Costa Rica is the FIA+FNA: ‘Festival de las Artes’ or Festival of Arts, a two-week celebration, annually alternating between its international and national edition. It’s filled with art shows, dance & acting performances, and massive concerts. Festival was hosted in San Jose since it was founded, but recently the Ministry of Culture decided it was time to take it to another level, and they started touring different locations around the country. This festival usually takes place at the end of the dry season, in the late March or April.
Around this time of the year another big celebration takes place, throughout the country–‘Semana Santa’, or the Easter celebration. It lasts for the whole week, with main events starting on Thursday and ending on Sunday. The processions are held in every city, but the procession in San José city is the best one to see since it usually involves the cast of the National Theatre Company and has a big production team featuring various bands and professional musicians.
‘Día de la Virgen de los Ángeles’–Virgen de los Angeles Day takes place on the August 2nd, when the whole country celebrates Costa Rica’s patron saint, also known as ‘la Negrita’. The statue of the Black Virgin, believed to be indigenous representation of Virgin Mary that was found in the early 17th Century in Cartago, Costa Rica’s former capital. According to local folklore, the statue kept miraculously reappearing at the same site where it was found the first time, so the locals decided to build a shrine on the very same spot, and it remained there until the present day. The Virgin is displayed at the main altar of the Nuestra Señora de los Angeles Basilica in Cartago, and nearly two million Costa Ricans walk 13.6 miles from San Jose downtown to the Cathedral each year, in order to honor the legend of the Virgin Mary. Prior to the celebration you will see thousands of pilgrims walking from all corners of the country to get to Cartago.
The Independence Day is celebrated on the September 15th. Unlike other countries in the region where armies perform pompous parades, Costa Rica celebrates its declaration of independence from Spain by organizing students parade. School kids dress up in national costumes and go out to the main streets with colorful homemade lampions –‘faroles’ that are lit up by the flame of the torch brought in all the way from Guatemala. The flame signifies the voice of the independence brought from Guatemala in 1821, and people pour out the the streets, joining the students in singing the national anthem and songs of independence.
‘Festival de la Luz’ was first held in 1996 when the municipality of San Jose organized the first parade of theme-decorated floats and best bands in the country, taking place on the main streets of San Jose downtown in early December. The steady rise in the quality of the national Festival of Light made this parade an inseparable and essential celebration of the holiday season.The main protagonists of the festival are the sparkling theme-decorated floats and school bands that play Christmas carols, followed by spectacular fireworks.