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Thistles and Roses

Christmas in Costa Rica


Our family had never spent a Christmas and New Years outside of Texas but this past year of 2022, because of changes in family circumstances, the whole family went to Heredia, Costa Rica.

This was one of the best holidays of my lifetime.

My older son married a Costa Rica woman three years ago and our daughter in law had not been with her family at Christmas in four years, so it was decided that both families would spend a Christmas in Costa Rica. My birthday is Dec. 29, so I had multiple parties with the many family and friends I have made in Heredia. Having “Happy Birthday to You” sung to you in Spanish is really special.

Heredia is a family-oriented town and province that we have been visiting since 1995. Some of us stayed with our long-time friend and 85-year-old matriarch of the Calderon family, Yolanda Calderon. Yolanda was one of the first women elected to the Costa Rica Congress in the 1970s. Her cousin, Rafael Calderon, was president of Costa Rica. She was so happy to have us be her house guests.

Her house is like a scene from a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel (see the movie “Love in the Time of Cholera.”) The tiled floors, many sitting areas, spacious kitchen, cabinets filled with china and crystal, and traditional Spanish furniture have a certain ambience. The cat, Lolita, rules the home and the chihuahua, Lucy, constantly yaps.

Christmas Eve is more emphasized with family than Christmas Day. We had some really nice family time. It was very interesting with the conversations switching back and forth from English to Spanish depending on the language spoken by the various participants. Some spoke Spanish only. Some spoke English only. Some of us were bilingual and switched back and forth.

We managed side trips to Britt Coffee headquarters where tours are offered and there is a superb al fresco restaurant and bakery. I disclose I have been importing and selling Britt Coffee for 20 years.

We also went to the Toucan Rescue Ranch (TRR), an animal rescue organization whose board I have been a member of for many years. We learned that CBS’ 60 Minutes filmed last fall and will air a report in coming months about TRR.

New Year’s Eve was really special at the in-laws’ house. We learned some interesting Latin American customs. At midnight each person eats twelve grapes slowly, making twelve wishes for the twelve months of the coming year. Another custom we observed in the neighborhood is people walking around the block with empty suitcases in hopes of taking many trips in the coming year. Many of us did the same. Fireworks were set off in the San Jose Valley at midnight and we could observe from the balcony of the home the many fireworks exploding above us on the mountains and below us. It was amazing.

The experiences are too many to recount, but one of the most special times was went I went alone across the town plaza with its fountain, the old fort, and the Parochial Church of the Immaculate Conception built in 1797. Families sat on park benches. Little children chased pigeons. Palm trees waved in the breeze.

I went into the church where people have sat and prayed and meditated for centuries. I sat and prayed and contemplated the many things that happen to us in life. I offered prayers for peace and healing of the many hurtful things that divide us. I thought about the importance of relationships, good friends, and most especially, family. May all of us have a blessed 2023.


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