Semana Santa shutdown will begin in just 10 days

A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Tourists flock to San José to photograph the
colorful Good Friday procession with the crucified
Christ going to the tomb.

Only 10 days remain before offices and businesses begin to shut down for the Semana Santa vacation. Easter is March 31 this year, and Holy Week starts March 24.

Thursday, March 28, and Good Friday, March 29, are legal holidays. The real holiday usually starts a week earlier as government workers and those in private firms apply some vacation time to get away earlier. Banco Nacional already announced that its offices will be closed March 28 and 29.

For expats, Holy Week or Semana Santa is a time when nothing gets done. For tourists, the week is one of pageants and religious processions. For religious Costa Ricans, this is a time to participate in a week of services climaxing with the Easter Mass, March 31. For others, the week is one to spend at the beach or mountains.

The Cámera Costarricense de Hotels reported survey results Tuesday that estimated beach and mountain occupancy would be about 82 percent for Semana Santa. As is typical during holidays, hotels in the metro area and other cities will not fare as well.

The hotel chamber polled 45 of its members to determine that Guanacaste hospitality providers expect 89 percent occupancy. The Caribbean responses estimated occupancy at 85 percent.

The chamber also reported what it called alarming data for January. The chamber monthly survey showed only 64 percent of the nation’s hotel rooms filled, it said. That was a percentage point lower than the same month in 2012.

Semana Santa begins Sunday, March 24, which is Palm Sunday in Christian tradition. There will be processions all over the country commemorating the biblical account of the arrival of Jesus Christ to Jerusalem. From there on the religious activity depends on the local church. La Fortuna de San Carlos near Arenal volcano is known for a photogenic procession Good Friday, March 29.

At the Catederal Metropolitana, there are a series of processions through downtown San José all week ending with two Good Friday. Participants include Roman soldiers, apostles, Mary Magdalen, the municipal band playing a dirge, larger than life statues of religious figures and the casket bearing the body of the crucified Christ to his tomb.

Law enforcement officials soon will announce their plans for the week. While many Costa Ricans are on holiday, Fuerza Pública officers, tourist police and traffic officers are on alert. The Servicio Nacional de Guardacoastas will be patrolling beaches offshore to protect swimmers.

Hospital emergency care will be normal, said the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

Meanwhile, supermarkets will be counting their cash. The economics ministry plans to report today the results of another one of those holiday price surveys. The survey will show that retailers jack up the prices on seasonal products.

Semana Santa is a time for fish, including sardines, cod and shrimp. Also a star at the table are the various manifestations of the chiverre, the squash that becomes a sweet treat. There also are the many rice dishes and special deserts.

The Museo Nacional points out that a long-standing tradition is for religious Costa Ricans to refrain from cooking during the week. There also is a tradition of maintaining silence on Good Friday and not even bathing.

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