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Holiday Traditions - Costa Rican Cuisine in December

The traditional Holiday food in Costa Rica is tamales and lots of eggnog. Both of these foods have a profound meaning for every Costa Rican. 


For most Costa Ricans, there is nothing better than eating a pork tamal and drinking a cup of coffee or 'agua dulce' during December at any time of the day. It brings up childhood memories. Tamales are made in large quantities during the Holiday Season for family gatherings, every day eating, special occasions, or to exchange between family and friends. 


They are made of a corn based dough filled with boneless pork shoulder or chicken breast pieces, carrots, potatoes, onions, red bell peppers, green peas and green olives wrapped in banana leaves and tied with a string. Then they are boiled for 2 hours. Their texture is soft inside, firm outside. 



Making tamales is a tradition that bonds the family together. Each family member is assigned a task to prepare and cook tamales. Traditional Costa Rican families start by going to their backyard to choose and cut banana leave, creating a small fire to smoke them. The following morning, they mill the corn at home or at a commercial mill, make the dough, cook the meat, assemble all the ingredients, wrap them in the banana leaves, and finally put them in a big pot and boil for two hours. Some families, buy the banana leaves already smoked and the dough already made at a supermarket or farmer's market. Nowadays, a lot of people order tamales from people who are well known for their savory tamales. 


Eggnog is an egg, milk and rum based beverage that is popular worldwide during the Holidays, as it is in Costa Rica during the month of December. It is typically made with milk, cream, sugar and egg yolks. It is infused with a lot of rum and spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, coconut and/or vanilla essence. Eggnog is served as an aperitif during December, served on Christmas meals or Rosaries. 




Written by Nadja Greub Schöni

Relocation Specialist, LARM Costa Rica & Nicaragua

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