Mother’s Day in the United States is a holiday reserved for fancy dinners, flowers, and cards in appreciation of the hard work moms put into raising their children, but this concept takes on a new meaning in Costa Rica. Here in Costa Rica, people do not shy away from submerging their mothers in gifts, parties, and an array of traditional foods. Some practices may mirror those found in the United States, but the extravagance and extent of these customs yields a vast contrast.
Mother’s Day, or El Día de la Madre, is not simply a sentimental evening, but an entire celebration truly devoted to pleasing and thanking moms for all that they do throughout the year.
In Costa Rica, El Día de la Madre is among the most important holidays of the year, runner up to Christmas (Navidad), Anexion a Guanacaste, La Batalla de Santarosa, and El Partido a la Anexión de Nicoya. Children take the day off from school and many parents stay home from work. They present gifts and cards to their moms and wives, the home is often cleaned, and flowers brought to cemeteries in dedication to deceased mothers.
Special meals are prepared, including vigorones, tamales, chicharrones, and gallo pinto. It is not uncommon for parties to be held, and for ´Mother’s Day´ to become ´Mother’s Days.´ One day is spent with grandmothers while the next is spent with younger parents and their children. Entire towns participate, with people thanking the parents they pass on streets and in shopping centers. Costa Rica acknowledges the fact that it takes more than a simple ´thank you´ to commemorate the year round, 24/7 job many mothers take on.
As I spent time with my host family and walked around the town of Miramar, Costa Rica, I was able to witness these Mother’s Day practices. The first thing I noticed when I awoke in the morning was the music coming from our neighbor’s party down the street. When I passed by their home later that day, I was greeted by balloons lining tables filled with pastries, and family members playing volleyball in the yard.
After a lunch of home prepared vigorones, salad, yucca, and tamales from my grandmother, my family and I ventured into town. I saw groups of people entering the local cemetery with flowers and other gifts. Since my family does not have a car, it was difficult for me to access nice quality, yet affordable, gifts for my host mom. We all agreed to go shopping together on El Día de la Madre, and to let my host mother free roam in the stores. We later arrived back at our home with my host mother and her new pair of shoes in tow.
As an exchange student, I must confront the fact that I am a guest in someone else’s house. The appreciation I feel towards my host family for welcoming me to this new country cannot be expressed through store bought presents, which is why homemade cards are so important. Even though it was slightly difficult with the language barrier, the happiness my host mom expressed in reaction to a handwritten letter was more than any pair of shoes could have bought. This is the experience prized on El Día de la Madre in Costa Rica. It is about the appreciation and joy one gets from parties filled with loved companions and the home cooked food that was eaten during childhood, not materialistic assets.
Although El Día de la Madre exists in both Costa Rica and the United States of America, the emphasis on the holiday in Costa Rica is entirely unique to the United States. This sometimes multiple day long celebration has a much more personal and traditional energy, with many classic meals and parties. It is more than a fancy evening or bouquet of roses; it is tables filled with pastries and balloons, and living rooms crowded with loved friends and family members. Giving chocolate and flowers on Mother’s Day may be universal, but the extravagance and love that these, and other, gifts are delivered with can only be found in Costa Rica.
About the Author:
My name is Rachael Maloney, and I am a curious venturer fueled by good books and foreign food. I am currently spending my junior year of high school in Costa Rica, doing my best to absorb everything my 10 months abroad have to teach. I look forward to carrying these lessons with me for many years to come, and, in the meantime, sharing them in online articles for those who are interested. Follow Rachael on her adventure and read her stories here.