Christmas here is like a personal time portal to the 1950s

Can that be Christmas lights and trees in the local department stores?

You bet, because Costa Ricans do not have Thanksgiving to bracket the December holiday season. But they do have Black Friday, which seems to be universal.

All those shipping containers from China carrying traditional Christmas decorations are already at the docks and soon the decorations, trees, wreaths and all will be crowding out other items on the store floors and shelves.

The calendar shows that there are only about 80 days left until Christmas week. For those in business, the calendar also says that aguinaldos, the fat, mandatory Christmas bonus is due to be paid to employees in the first two weeks of December. This is one reason Costa Ricans have such a festive Yule.

The Costa Rican Christmas is very much like a 1950s Christmas in the United States. Those were the days when the American Civil Liberties Union had better things to do than crack down on nativity scenes and Santas. Costa Ricans are unashamed to link the holiday closely with the birth of Jesus. The municipalities pitch in, and tax money is spent hanging decorations along the streets, putting a nativity scene on the lawn of the supreme court and sponsoring the gigantic Festival de la Luz that draws perhaps a million people to the sidewalks of San José. The festival this year is Dec. 13.

The tradition is fragile. Lawmakers are considering legislation that will reduce or eliminate the role of the Catholic Church in government. Officials of other religions want a piece of the pie that the Catholic clergy gets from the annual budget. They should be careful what they wish for because cash-short Costa Rica might just opt for a secular state. There is a campaign to do just that.

Such a decision would pull all the government support from the December holidays and leave it to citizens. That happened to some extent last year when a small committee created a traditional Yule holiday with downtown merchants and some help from the local municipality.

Expats can keep an eye on the legislature, and until there are changes, they have a personal time machine to see the Christmas holidays they way they were up north 60 years ago or more.

Logo from the festival Web page.

Logo from the festival Web page.

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