Labor Day marks the start of el Mes de la Patria

Monday is Labor Day in the United States or Labour Day in Canada and the United Kingdom.  It is a public holiday creating a three-day weekend.

More importantly, the day marks the official end of summer in the northern part of the hemisphere. For Costa Rica’s struggling tourism operators this means there will be a lot of Canadian and U.S. residents looking for a warm place to defeat the coming winter.

Costa Rica celebrates its day for workers May 1 each year. The only official effect of this Monday’s holiday here will be at relevant embassies which will be closed.

Nevertheless, Costa Rica is heading for some holidays in September.

Monday, Sept. 8, is the  Día del Niño y la Niña. This is not  public holiday, but it is a day to honor children, and most will be expecting a gift.

Costa Rica subscribes to the treaty over the rights of children that won approval at the United Nations in 1989. The treaty contains 24 rights that a considered inalienable for children, including freedom from physical and mental abuse. Despite what children say, this does not obligate parents to take them to McDonald’s.

September is called el Mes de la Patria in Costa Rica because Sept. 15 is the Día de la Independencia. This is the 192nd anniversary. Independence day is a Sunday this year, and much of the activity will be the night before, which is a Saturday.

This is the holiday when youth carry the torch of freedom from Guatemala and circulate the flame to every community. There will be an official   reception for the flame in Cartago Saturday night. Saturday also is the night when Costa Ricans and savvy expats stop normal activity exactly at 6 p.m. and sing the national anthem, the Himno Nacional. Some may be surprised that this even happens in downtown restaurants and bars. Costa Ricans take their patriotism seriously.

There is a gathering at 6 p.m. at Parque Central where the torch or antorcha is received and the anthem sung, followed by speeches. The torch will be used to ignite a large cauldron.

The U.S. Embassy staff said this week that the facility will be closed Sept. 13 in honor of Costa Rica’s independence. So far there has been no effort by the central government to make that Friday a paid holiday, but a presidential decree might be coming. So far Sunday remains a paid holiday for those who normally work that day. Double pay is mandatory for those who work that day.

To avoid economic impact on the private economy, the central government might just declare Friday a day off for public workers. This has happened in the past.

School children already have their orders to participate in a march of faroles Saturday evening. These are the creative representations of street lamps that tradition says Costa Ricans huddled under while they discussed the significance of  independence in 1821. The education ministry said that displays of faroles will take place at every school in the country.

That means many parents will be busy earlier in the day putting the finishing touches on their child’s efforts.

Tradition is not fact because the news that the region no longer was part of the Spanish empire did not arrive until Oct. 13 due to the travel time from what was then the capital, Guatemala City.

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