The traditional Christmas Season in Costa Rica, offers customs that came from Spain with the early settlers. These include the portal or pasito, the nativity scene, which is still the most important part of Christmas in Costa Rica. The scene must feature the three figures of the Holy Family, one cow and one donkey and the figure of baby Jesus is added at midnight on Noche Buena, Christmas Eve. In most homes, a variety of other figures have been added to the scene including shepherds, sheep and angels, farm animals, cats and dogs, but also toy trains, super heroes and Disney characters have been known to make an appearance.
The nativity scene begins with lana or moss, found in the trees of the high Cloud forests and a rustic manger made of cypress wood. Each portal is unique to the individual family and often includes potted plants, and creativity producing wondrous displays with blinking christmas lights, flowing water and recorded hymns. Families sometimes add photographs of family members and some neighborhoods host live portales with humans portraying the Holy Family complete with friends and neighbors who share in saying the rosary and singing villancicos, or carols and share seasonal tamales and eggnog with all. Figures of the three kings are added to the portales on January 6, and again the day is celebrated with a rosary to the baby Jesus.
In the surrounding towns, many houses will place their portales on their porch so that passerbys can look in and enjoy the scene. The local churches feature large portales in front of the churches and often in the naves. At Finca Rosa Blanca we take our guests to our local towns and pueblos to share in the traditions of Costa Rica at Christmas time.