There is a double treat in store for expats who attend the rezo del Niño ceremony at the Museo Nacional Friday afternoon.
The ceremony itself dates back at least to Medieval Spain and the life-size figures that make up the museum’s nativity scene have a long history and recently have been refurbished.
The rezo del Niño is a traditional prayer service before the nativity scene is put away for another year. There is no need to be Catholic to attend the museum’s 1:30 p.m. ceremony.
Similar ceremonies are being held all over the country in offices, private homes and in the headquarters of organizations and clubs.
María Elena Masis, museum historian, was quoted saying that the ceremony came to Costa Rica at the end of the 18th century and has become part of the Costa Rican identity.
It merges religion with popular culture and even popular foods because the ceremony is followed by eating and singing.
A typical rezo is an hours long production with live music and much prayer. The ceremony is centered around the rosary, the assembly of 54 beads Catholics use for prayer and meditation.
A musician frequently is part of a team. Also present could be a mistress of ceremonies who leads the prayers and perhaps other assistants. Among the songs can be the ancient “El Alabado,” a hymn of praise to Jesus.
The word rezo comes from rezar, which means to pray.
The 15-piece nativity scene now at the museum has a long history. The figures were made in Paris and came to Costa Rica by ship to Limón and probably railway to San José about 100 years ago, said the museum, giving this outline:
The figures were displayed for years at Hospital San Juan de Dios when it was run by the sisters of charity of St. Vincent de Paul. The sisters added clothing and some refinements to the statues. When the hospital became part of the public health system in 1942, the figures eventually came to the museum.
Alfredo Duncan, the museum restorer, completed work on the figures for this Christmas. He cleaned and retouched the pieces and fixed cracks as well as adding supports where needed. Then the figures were polished. Each piece is about 1.6 meters, some 63 inches.