For the lucky few, Christmas holiday begins today

For a few bucks, a roll of white batting and some creativity, a 19th century New England Christmas can come alive even in Costa Rica. This is the time of year when it's OK for grownups to play with dolls. The figurines and Christmas village structrures range from these PriceSmart standards to collectibles worth hundreds of dollars. The only thing missing here is a vintage Lionel electric train. But no real snow, please. Photo: A.M. Costa Rica

In many public agencies, the Christmas holidays already have begun.

Although the executive branch decreed that the last day of work would be Thursday, some independent agencies have said Monday is the last day. Lawmakers are expected to go home Tuesday.

The situation is not good for someone expecting rapid approval of some piece of governmental paperwork.

Even if the government offices are open, don’t count on the workers being too keen to, well, work. There’s decorations to put up. The nativity scene needs tweaking. And the Christmas party has to be planned.

Half the staff is out anyway because they managed to link their personal vacation to the Christmas holiday. A few agencies said they would not be back at their desk until Jan. 10, a full week after most executive branch workers are supposed to return.

Commerce will be going full blast. Mall stores still hope to make half their annual income in the next week. Supermarket chains will be open up to midday Friday, Dec. 24.

Banks will be open between Christmas and New Year’s, but with reduced hours.
Security and medical services will be responding, but some local government clinics will be closed between the two holidays. The Cruz Roja just accepted delivery of 30 ambulances that will be going into service. The Judicial Investigating Organization will continue to keep its office for receiving crime reports running 24 hours a day. Fuerza Pública will be working reinforced holiday shifts. And traffic police will be conducting their annual crackdown.

Although the beaches are a magnet this time of year, those who remain in the Central Valley or visit have the Tope Nacional horse parade the day after Christmas and the start of the Fiestas de Zapote, the Christmas carnival.

The big attraction this year, as always, are the Tico bull fights with the famous bull Malacrianza on display but sitting out the action. The bull, known for throwing riders, suffered an injury and owner Ubaldo Rodríguez decided to retire the creature. There will be a retirement party Dec. 26. Still, the rondel at Zapote will see bull riding, bull baiting and bull revenge. The first event starts at 2 p.m. Christmas Day.

Fiesta organizers have a new Web page that features a list of events and videos of those informal toreadores who brave confrontation with fighting bulls. Both major television stations will be covering the event and even have designated teams with company colors.

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