Believe it or not, the Christmas season is almost here

A.M. Costa Rica file photo
More horses than anyone can imagine.

There is no need to wait for Santa. The shipping containers with Christmas 2012 already have arrived from China. Local stores are bursting with decorations, and merchants are salivating at the prospect of a successful shopping season.

So are hospitality operators who see Christmas as the start of the country’s high season and the end of a drab period short on tourists.

Costa Ricans are not bound by the constrictions of Thanksgiving to begin the holiday celebrations. Portals, small nativity scenes, are popping up like mushrooms in businesses and in government offices.

The major official action of the holiday season is the distribution of aguinaldos, the Christmas bonus that represents a twelfth of an employee’s salary during the previous 12 months. That takes place in the first two weeks of December, just a month away.

A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Some people actually do this.

With their pockets full of colons and goodwill in the air, residents will head for San José where The Festival de la Luz, the giant Christmas parade is scheduled to step off Saturday, Dec. 15, at 6 p.m. More than a dozen bands already have been selected to participate. Various companies and government agencies have experts working on the floats that will be in the parade. The event, in its 16th year, will be televised.

At the Teatro Nacional “The Nutcracker,” El Cascanueces will be drawing crowds Dec. 5 to 16.

The day after Christmas, Dec. 26, will see the capital invaded by horses and riders for the annual Tope Nacional. This year the horse parade will originate at Plaza González Víquez and go west on Paseo Colon. Organizers made this change to prevent riders from entering the line of march at La Sabana without paying the fee, they said.

And at Zapote the same day the Fiestas de San José 2012-2013 will be in full swing. This is the big
carnival with the unique version of Costa Rica bullfighting in the rondel there and on television nationally and internationally.

Hundreds of Costa Ricans, male and female, crowd into the ring to challenge a fighting bull. Some make hasty airborne exits. Spectators pay to see their favorite participants trampled or worse.

The commission running the Zapote festival already has auctioned off 58 booths for food merchants, beer vendors operators of carnival rides and even providers of pay toilets.

Christmas is on a Tuesday this year, so most government offices and many private businesses will be abandoned Thursday, Dec. 20, or Friday, Dec. 21. Most will not be reopened until Monday, Jan. 7. Much of the Central Valley population will head to the beaches or mountains.

Expats with official business are advised to do so before Friday, Dec. 14, so as not to intrude on the Christmas parties, inaugurations of portales and other celebrations that take up the time of government workers during the Yule season.

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