For every country around the world, Independence Day has a different meaning and ways that people celebrate their heritage, patriotism, and history. Costa Rica celebrates Día de la Independencia (Independence Day) on September 15th of each year and it’s the most important cultural holiday in the country. Costa Rica along with the rest of Central America was granted its independence from Spain on September 15th, 1821 and it is on this day that Costa Rica began to redefine itself & its’ identity.
The day is commemorated starting on the 14th when the Torch of Freedom also known as the torch run, arrives in Cartago with parties, festivals, parades, topes (horse parades), concerts, and park gatherings. The torch run has become an important national symbol for Costa Ricans and it initially kicks off on the 9th of September in Guatemala when the people light the “Independence Torch” and then by foot carry it through Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and finally end in Cartago.
An impressive tradition that follows once the torch arrives is the singing of Costa Rica’s national anthem, Noble patria, tu hermosa bandera, (“Noble homeland, your beautiful flag”) the anthem portrays Ticos (Costa Ricans) as humble, hard-working, and appreciative folk. Thousands of Ticos (Costa Ricans) all around the country sing the anthem in unison at 6:00 pm on September 14th and you can also hear the anthem broadcasted on local news and radio stations.
One of Costa Rica’s biggest Independence Day celebrations that you can find in the cities, towns, and small communities is the evening light walk or the traditional nighttime lantern parade (Desfile de Faroles) done by schoolchildren on the eve of Independence Day. Kids carry colorful homemade paper and wooden “lanterns”, also done with LED lights nowadays for safety, in the shape of houses and other objects in a reenactment of the 19th-century journey that brought the message of independence to Costa Rica. The walk typically begins a few minutes after 6:00 pm (following the singing of the national anthem) and usually lasts an hour it’s also common to see and hear fireworks after the walk, as some celebrations will extend into the night.
On the morning of September 15th School marching bands, which have practiced for several months in preparation, color guards, and folkloric dancers who demonstrate Punto Guanacasteco, a Costa Rican folk dance will parade through nearly every town. You will find men, women, and children often dressed in their traditional best–flowing skirts, straw hats, and pressed shirts in a red, white, and blue color palette that signify national pride. There will be floats (usually trucks decorated with native plants and flowers) and children carrying signs that state words or phrases that are synonymous with Costa Rica’s independence or local pride.
Of course, no celebration would be complete without food, you will find traditional foods usually sold by street vendors and enjoyed during the parades or after at a private home with friends and family. Although Casados (these are meals using rice, black beans, plantains, salad, a tortilla, and an optional protein source) are a staple and the most popular dish you will also find various types of empanadas and tamales to enjoy. When looking at what to drink during the festivities the national local beers are what will be the most popular, these being Imperial or Pilsen but also make sure to try the Guaro, this is the countries locally produced sugar cane alcohol.
If you have children or do not drink enjoy an “agua dulce” which is sweet, locally made water.
If you happen to find yourself in Costa Rica during the festivities and want to get in on all the fun, it will not be hard to find a celebration as they take place all around, but no city will host more events than the capital city of San Jose. Events will change from year to year, so make sure to check a local news source to confirm event times and locations. The most popular as well as in English that lists things going on during holidays and around the country is the Tico Times.
If you are staying with us at Sirena Serena in Tamarindo during this holiday be sure to ask us about the local festivities and events. It is an amazing way to celebrate a beautiful culture and history while creating memories during your vacation.