04 December 2009

Is it Christmas yet?

Apparently it is … here in Costa Rica. The Ticos take Christmas decorations very seriously. Every place you look, the decorations are up. Most of them have been up for a week or more. There doesn’t seem to be any of the competitive, “my lights are better than your lights,” here. Everyone just decorates. Some of the decorating is amazing.

During one of our geocaching forays deep into the mountains – where rain forest jungle edges up against forsaken little fincas (farms) -- we saw pockets of grinding poverty where the houses are just slapped together shanties. Many of them are fully constructed of rusty corrugated steel roofing, probably appropriated from unguarded construction sites or reclaimed from the roofs of ancient abandoned barns. But, amid their poverty, their hovels are decorated for Christmas. At least there is a cut-out of the Jolly Old Elf’s visage nailed to the front door. The “rich” peons [pay-owns’] have electricity and if they have electricity they’ve somehow managed to come up with a string of Christmas lights or two, gaily twinkling away, day and night.

In the towns we traveled through, Friday, December 04 is a crazy day of frenzied celebration and city-wide carnival. For, this is the day of the alginaldo [ahl-gee-nahl’-dough]. This is when every person in the country is paid (on the same day) the equivalent of 1 month’s salary, for Christmas bonus, by law. Imagine the craziness in the States if every employed person suddenly had that much cash in hand. Well, it’s crazy like that here, too. On top of the alginaldo, this was the last week of the school year for most of the children. Add that to every city staging a big fiesta / bazaar / carnival / party (usually centered at the town square and the Catholic Church, which is always situated on one side of the town square.) It was so nuts that the main street of the capital, San Jose, was blocked by a sea of surging humanity, already spending and partying, in the middle of the afternoon. We didn’t hang around to find out where that party was going … cripes … we have a flight to catch in two days.

And then … there are our neighbors, bless their hearts.

Imagine, one of them actually has a house that looks to be smaller than ours (if that’s possible). Clearly there is no room inside for a Christmas tree. Sooooooo, the fully decorated and lighted tree is proudly sitting out on their miniscule front porch, half blocking the front door.

But the prize goes to our “almost-neighbor” up the street. Their house isn’t close to being finished yet. This week it was just a framed-in structure with a roof. Yesterday, they started putting up the sheets of blue Styrofoam insulation on the front wall. On the second floor, dead center on the front façade, there will be a huge picture window – some day. Right now, it is just a hole in the framing, surrounded with blue sheathing. Guess what is hoisted up in that opening, blazing away with the latest LED tree lights? Oh, yeah … they might not live there but by god they’re going to decorate.

Fun country.

1 comment:

  1. Man, they need to institute that mandatory bonus law here.