Baby, it’s warm outside! My first Costa Rican Christmas.

I must say I was really looking forward to my first Christmas in Costa Rica.  I’ve always liked Christmas while growing up in the states – the music, the lights, the shopping….  But I didn’t like how stressful and commercialized it had all seemed to become for me, the last several years living in Dallas.

This year – I took Christmas “off”….  Off, you say?  No Christmas??  Well, mainly I mean no decorating, no shopping and no gifts this year.

The “no decorating” was made pretty easy for me, since we recently sold everything we owned (including ALL my meager but beloved Christmas decorations) and moved here with just a small fleet of suitcases this past June. This was the extent of my Christmas decorating this year:

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Aren’t they pretty? Gift from an artsy friend here who hand makes these. Happily displayed in my front window.

No shopping and no gifts…    Our families (hopefully) understand with us moving to Costa Rica, being on a budget, and it being costly to ship things – there will be no material gifts this year.   This is not too big of a change from recent years past, as Greg & I had pretty well down sized on the gift-giving, just buying small gifts for our parents and 16 nieces and nephews (16! being the optimal reason for “small” gifts in the first place).   Face-timing and texting would have to do this year.

I certainly didn’t want anything, by means of gifts. I mean, really, how could I want for anything when Greg & I have already given each other the gift of early-retirement and living abroad?  My life is a daily adventure now, and I would not trade it for the world.

Really, it was nice to have the external layers of decorating, shopping, gift-giving – all taken away.  What was I left with?  The things that matter:  my husband.  family.  friends.  love.  health.  happiness. tamales.  egg nog.

So, all mushiness aside…  you may ask – what did we actually “do” this year for Christmas?  Well, a handful of small, but very meaningful things:

The weekend before Christmas, we were invited to a “winter solstice” finger food party  (foodie note:  I brought veggie pizza and turtle candies).  It was a huge gathering of people, many of whom we knew or had at least met once.  It was a lovely time!  And totally different than certain Christmas parties in the past in the States, where I would easily become socially awkward….  There was none of that here.  I felt comfortable the whole night – unheard of for me!  I’m thinking Costa Rica just might be good for me.

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My turtle candies & veggie pizza.

The next day we celebrated our friend Steve’s birthday – they invited us to go to lunch with them to a place we’d been dying to try – Jalapeno’s in Alajuela.  OMG – very yummy Mexican food!  Met the owner, who is from New York, who sat down and joined us for a bit.  Then Steve & Justa came back to our house afterwards for White Pineapple Upside Down Cake (Steve’s request, I had never made before).   He approved!  How did I know this?  He had 2nds.  And then 3rds.

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Greg, Me, Justa, Birthday-Steve, Mark & Laurie

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Homemade White Pineapple Upsidedown Cake

Then later that night, we had our friend Justin and his friend Travis (visiting from Texas), up to our place for drinks and to watch the sunset on our porch.  Well, the sunset never happened.  It fogged and clouded up, right after they got here – but we had a good time anyway.  Come to find out – Travis is our brother-n-law Brady’s 2nd cousin!  Travis’s dad had even stayed at Richard & Shirley’s house once upon a time – how crazy of a small world is that?  Travis turned out to be related us (albeit remotely)!  Good thing we like you, Travis.

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Justin, Travis & Greg

The next day, our Costa Rican neighbor brought us a gift of 4 tamales – homemade by his wife.  It is a family tradition here to make tamales the day before Christmas Eve.  We had been wanting to try them, and I must say they were pretty good!  Very different from the Mexican tamales we are used to in Texas – these are wrapped in banana leaves in groups of 2 (called a “piña”), and had rice, pork, carrots, peas & red pepper inside.  Pretty good, but I still prefer my Texas friend Mayte`’s tamales –  her mom makes the best (once she even made some “breakfast” cinnamon-raisin tamales!).

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Costa Rican Tamales

Christmas Eve Day – we were invited for a late dinner at our friend’s house a few ridges over.  They had invited us, their grandson Justin, and three close Tico friends  – it was a lovely dinner and evening.  (Foody note:  I brought my Rosemary-Garlic Bread and English Toffee).  They had an amazing spread of ham, mexican tamales, skillet potatoes, fruit, veggies…  everything was very tasty!

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Greg & I with Helen.
Justin and Charles.

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Candy Crush Toffee and Pecan Toffee.

Greg & I spent Christmas Day together, which was a beautiful, slightly windy but sunny, 85 degree day.  I whipped up some homemade cinnamon rolls in the morning for breakfast – my first attempt.  They were delicious, and Greg and I immediately decided that these need to be a part of our Christmas Day tradition from now on.

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I got to text with some family, and then Facetime with my Mom and youngest brother Ted, which was so nice because I was feeling a little bit home-family-sick Christmas morning…  Later Greg & I watched our traditional Christmas movie together “Love Actually” (best Christmas movie ever!), while munching on my baked olives and sipping homemade Costa Rican Rompope (egg nog) from our neighbor.  Then later at night, our friends Justa & Steve had us over for dinner – she served wine (from a bottle!), bread and cold cuts for an appetizer, and then Costa Rican tamales that she had helped her Mom make the other day.  Her tamales were sooooo much better than the first ones we had tried from our neighbor (sorry neighbor).  We love Steve & Justa, they are soooo nice to us and we love hanging out with them – there’s something to be said about friends you are just down right comfortable with.  What a great ending to our Christmas Day.

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Homemade Rompopo from our neighbor – delish!

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Relaxing on Steve & Justa’s porch…

 

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Gorgeous view from Steve & Justa’s!

I can’t say what next year will hold, but for now – this first Costa Rican Christmas was pretty perfect.

Ciao! — Jen
P.S. – I hope you weren’t hungry when you started reading this post.

Jen

I quit my job in my early 40’s, sold everything and retired early to live a simple life in Costa Rica!

Check out my book: "Costa Rica Chica" - the book.

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8 Responses to Baby, it’s warm outside! My first Costa Rican Christmas.

  1. Jen,

    Completely enjoyed you first CR Christmas experience! Had so many parallels to ours, No deco, no gifts, miss family, great food, wonderful people. Being a foodie myself, I also enjoyed the food photos! Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Sheila!! I love it when I hear I’m not the only one experiencing something a certain way. Thanks for your kind comments on my food. 🙂

  2. Great info Jen. I cannot bring myself to part with my many years of memories with the kids or my Christmas tree – and other ornaments! My Christmas stuff is some of my most prized possessions! Since we will probably be coming to the USA for Christmases with the kids– except when they come to see us….I’m trying to decide whether to take mine with me to CR, and if so…how? I have more than the legal law allows! Or, do I leave them here and set them up somewhere when we come to visit? Not sure yet, but I know they will not be given away or sold!!!!! You are a better woman than me to be able to let yours go!

    Sounds like y’all had a wonderful Christmas time with great folks! Btw – who is that long-haired man in the pics with you?

    • Thanks Jeanie. I know it’s different for everyone… I certainly did not have that many Christmas decorations, but the ones I did have were nice and meaningful. However, I am not too much of a sentimental person with material things… there are a few things, for sure – and these I have stored, but not many – I was able to let go of a lot of things that I knew really didn’t matter in the end. I knew that when I made the decision to do what we did – that we were simplifying, selling (almost) everything, and really – starting a new life. Again, I know that’s not for everyone – but for me – it worked really well. 🙂 Of course, I don’t have kids – so there’s lots of differences between you & me.

      Hang in there – I know it is hard for you, and I don’t envy the decisions you will have to make… Peace! — Jen

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