The happy spirit flows from the center of town up through the hills to our home. Neighbors drop by to share their tasty holiday tamales and other custom culinary delights for the season. Lately, a few children came cheerfully hollering at my door to hand me an invitation to their school’s Christmas musical. Costa Ricans are extremely generous, welcoming people, and their warmth may very well be at it’s height this time of year.
I plan to mirror the Christmas Day’s of our sometimes snowy past by starting the morning out with general fun under the “tree,” annual secret-family-recipe cinnamon rolls, and as elaborate a chicken dinner I can muster from our small local grocery store. Or, I’ll throw in the towel and finally learn how to make tamales. Whatever meal is made, it will be special, and perhaps shared with other expat and “Tico” friends.
A big part of Christmas is the tree, right? It’s a huge deal. But, for this traveling family, it just doesn’t make sense to purchase one and all the ornaments and trimmings that go with it. I’ve taken the easy (or can I say “creative?”) way out and made a tree that I can roll up and take with us. Yes, it’s made of paper. My son and I drew our tree, and we’re proud of it. To brag even more, it only cost us a little over a dollar. I even drew presents, but I don’t think my son will let me off the hook there.
My three year old hasn’t forgotten that his favorite day of the year is approaching. He announces his “wish list” to me ever so often, and it is an interesting collection of items. A Buzz Light Year (which he calls, “Buzz Year”), a big monkey, and a yellow monster truck are at the top of his requirements. While I have been lucky enough to find a yellow monster truck (I’m still shocked), the other two are probably not going to find their way under our magnificent tree-drawing this year. But, I’ve found even better things—things that he can keep forever as souvenirs of his time spent in Costa Rica. The nearby village of Sarchí is famous for its wooden, hand-crafted and meticulously painted ox carts and smaller creations. A quick trip at one of their colorful shops ended with a basket of priceless goodies for the kids: wooden puzzles in the shape of a butterfly and frog, coloring pencils made from actual sticks, and a sturdy wooden airplane. I also picked up two locally-made aprons for my two “helpful” chefs, and a fascinating mobile made from hard grass and colorful string from the weekly farmer’s market. I am pleased that we can support the community in this way, by gleaning uniquely hand-crafted gifts that will symbolize our time here.
Christmas is about giving and sharing, am I right? We’ve been showered with the gifts that come with living in a new country, around entirely new people these twelve months. It has been a year of wonder and excitement—two words that often describe this holiday in particular. It suits to close a chapter abroad with Navidad in Costa Rica, a place as warm in the air as it is in the heart.