Celebrate the creation of this peaceful democracy: Costa Rica’s Independence Day

Typical neighborhood in Costa Rica

Typical neighborhood, selling handmade lanterns and tortillas for Independence Day. Photo credit @vecinosactivoscarpio.

Independence Day is commemorated in Costa Rica on September 15th, so don´t be startled by marching bands and banging drums. Join the celebration during one of the country´s most important holidays.

Costa Rican flag waving over Lake Arenal, photo credit @hanka_slavickova

Costa Rican flag waving over Lake Arenal, photo credit @hanka_slavickova


Costa Rica was a part of Spain, and Guatemala was the regional government for territories in Central America. This all changed in 1821, and once they became autonomous, so did every other territory, becoming what is now Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. News didn’t travel fast back then, so it wasn’t until a month later that inhabitants knew of their newly found condition.


To teach children about valueshonor and patriotism, students are entrusted with commemorating this important day. At sundown on September 14th, children light handmade lanterns, a tradition that started in Guatemala. The next morning, the school bands and parades cheerfully march through the streets of each local town. Costa Rica has no army, and it achieved its independence without need for war. Furthermore, the marches are done by students and not armies extolling their power as it is sadly done in many places around the world.

Children marching during Costa Rica's Independence Day, photo credit @maymnbn.

Children marching during Costa Rica’s Independence Day, photo credit @maymnbn.


Depending on where you are in the country, you might also experience traditional dances with couples dressed in typical garb, a fancier version of what was worn during colonial times. Simple “campesino” outfit for the men and beautiful wide colorful skirt and white layered blouse for women. The skirt creates movement and colors as several couples move in synch to the music of the “marimba”.

Costa Rican children in typical costumes ready to celebrate, photo credit @victormanuel01ve

Costa Rican children in typical costumes ready to celebrate, photo credit @victormanuel01ve


This is your chance to try many typical dishes such as “tamales” (corn dough filled with meat and vegetables and boiled in plantain leaves), “picadillos” (vegetables and meat cooked together and served on corn tortillas), “cajetas” (sweet treats made with caramelized fruit and milk) and “casados” (meal served for lunch or dinner including meat, rice, beans, plantain, salad and more). Walk over to the local square in your vicinity, where the church and park are, and chances are there will be food vendors for you to experience.

Article by Katie Widdowson