Costa Rican Independence Day Traditions/Celebrations

Context: RJ is currently a university student and grew up in San Jose, Costa Rica until her family moved to the United States before she started high school. She was kind enough to share some traditional aspects of celebrating the Costa Rican Independence Day, and did so by writing all she knew/remembered in a document.


RJ: All of these are aspects of and traditions from Costa Rican Independence Day, which we celebrated on September 15th: Women dress up in traditional faldas that follow the color scheme of the national flag. It is also worn with a white blouse that completes the outfit, it has blue and red stripes on it. This is a typical latin american practice. Every country wears their flags colors (duh) Men wear “campesinos” outfits which are khakis, a white shirt (collared usually), with a straw hat, or farmers type hat. Men also hold red banderas in their hands (wave them around during fan or wear them around their necks.

At every school around the country, young children practice typical folk dances for months in preparation for independence day. When September 15 roles around, all the kids dress up and perform in the parade on the streets. This happens in the city, the beach, the mountains, etc. For my school, elementary students performed their dance, by grade,  on the recess field (which was a huge soccer field with lots of grass) and the whole school came and watched (k-12) including teachers and parents.

Lantern Walk: These lanterns (faroles) are homemade. You can buy them in the store and then fold them up. Sometimes you make them in class. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some look like the typical homes of Costa Rica, “casitas típicas” or ox carts. Others are just cylindrical though its up to the consumer which one they want to walk with for the parade. At my school we would all gather in our classrooms at 8am, dressed up with our lanterns, and then walk around the entire school together to the national anthem before all gathering in the field to begin the parade. 

We always had arroz con pollo with frijoles molidos, papas, and plantains. It’s a really easy dish to make in large amounts and I’m sure people around the country ate the same food after they paraded.

Analysis: The traditions of this holiday seem to reflect the culture of the common people of Costa Rica. The food eaten is not some special and expensive dish like one may eat for a big holiday, but rather a food that everyone in the country has some access too, celebrating the collective in the country. Similarly, the clothes worn represent both patriotism and the dress that would typically be worn by the lower classes of society rather than the elite class. There is a constant presence of the youth performing many of these traditions, potentially a representation of Costa Rica as a young nation and placing the emphasis on the nation’s future. The folk tradition of lanterns again puts the focus on the common people of the country, having the shapes of traditional houses or common farming equipment. Additionally, the symbolism of light behind within these shapes shows an understanding that the heart of their country resides in the the common people.