I was a bit surprised to find a slice of my Midwestern Christmases right outside my door in San Jose. On the surface, it doesn’t feel like the holidays when I’m down in the tropics. Palm trees, brilliant sunshine, and bougainvilleas bursting with color simply don’t remind me of those December days when I trekked through snow and ice in a land where Santa damn well better make sure he’s wearing a heavy coat. Here, Santa should be in a tank top, wearing a straw hat, and sipping a little cup of rum at every house he visits.
But if you’ve been in Costa Rica for a while, it does start to feel like Christmas. The cool December breezes that sweep through the Central Valley mark the beginning of the holiday season. Cars with megaphones on the roof advertise tamales for sale. The streets are packed, as schools are on summer vacation, end-of-year bonuses have been paid, and families flock to fulfill Christmas wishes.
Outside my front gate, there are a couple of bushes sporting red, star-shaped leaves. Poinsettias. During my youth, they were the only splash of color in an otherwise black-and-white landscape, and even then only inside, on the hearth. Today, when I leave to head into town, I’ll look at that little tropical bush and become awash in my ghosts of Christmases past. Then I’ll feel the warm sunshine, smell the cooking tamales, snap out of my reverie, and walk contentedly towards another tropical Christmas.
For information on planting and caring for poinsettias, read Ed Bernhardt’s excellent column.