Monday, December 26, 2011

Tamales, Bull Fights and Baby Jesus

What's Christmas like in Costa Rica?  Just read the title, man!

December is when the tamales start showing up in Costa Rica.  It's a traditional food that's always eaten around Christmas time.  They're a bit different than Mexican tamales and are wrapped up in huge banana leaves, instead of corn husks, and tied in pairs with string.  Usually they have pork, and other veggies and rice, but you can find chicken ones as well.  They are quite tasty with a dollop of Salsa Lizano.

Tamales ready for a boil!

Looks tasty!

Christmas day also brings another Costa Rican favorite- bull fights.  And I'm not talking these types of bull fights.  Unlike the classic image of Spanish bull fighting with a fancy matador and more than one tortured and slaughterer bull per session, Costa Rica's bulls are neither killed nor tortured.  In fact, they are celebrities.  They have facebook pages and silly names like Black Magic and El Wachi.  These "bull fights" go on all year long but Christmas day starts the Zapote fights, which are the most popular.  Some of the festivities include actual bull riding, and some sort of strange tico version where the riders don't hold on with their hands at all, but the main event is the improvisado or "improvised" bull fights.

What happens in improvisado is around 100 stupid, macho men are let into a ring.  Then El Wachi, or whatever other bull they have lined up, is let in as well.  The stupid, macho men (and occasionally a woman or two) then attempt to touch the bull and yell at the bull and run as close to the bull as possible, without being impaled or trampled.  Sometimes, they tie things to the bull's horns, like balloons or handkerchiefs, and whoever manages to pull it off gets a prize.  Most of the guys inside the ring are dressed up as superheroes, women, or other silly costumes just to get more laughs.  It's entertaining, and although I feel sorry for the saps that do get hit, it's their stupid fault for getting into a closed ring with a 1500 pound bull!  Oscar, his aunt and I are trying to get tickets to go sometime this week. So hopefully I'll get some good pictures then!  Until, here are some internet finds:

Improvisado bull fights

The strange tico bull riding

Here's a video of what the toros are like.  Some of the hits look pretty bad, but people are rarely seriously injured.

In every country you have to ask "Who brings the presents on Christmas?"  David Sedaris did a whole thing about France having a Bell deliver presents (or was it on Easter?)  So it's always funny to see who has the most strange traditions.  Well in Costa Rica, Santa does not bring presents, rather the Baby Jesus does.  Children are told to pray to the Baby Jesus to bring them presents.  I guess I just thought this was pretty funny.

So for our Christmas, Oscar and I went over to his mom's house for dinner on Christmas Eve.  We had paella, salad, and for dessert my failed chocolate pie which was more like chocolate pudding.  Yummy all the same.  I brought over my computer and skyped with my family back home as they sang "Feliz Navidad" to Oscar's family.  Oscar's family was down right tickled about that.  At midnight, when children are allowed to open presents, Oscar and I drove home and went to sleep.  I had a wonderful first Christmas with Oscar and his family!


Family dinner

Feliz navidad!  Prospero año y felicidad!

Christmas day, Oscar and I spent sleeping, watching the cyclists of La Vuelta de Costa Rica (similar to le Tour du France, but in Costa Rica!) ride right in front of our house and devouring the box of chocolates Oscar gave me.  Feliz Navidad!

Go, bikers, go!

Perlita liked watching too!

For more pictures of La Vuelta de Costa Rica, click here!  


Gretchen said...

That video of the bull fights was hilarious! Glad the bull gets a chance.

Gretchen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I love the bull fights! The bull finally gets to turn the tables for his doomed cousins in Spain ;)

Happy New Year!!

- Britta