By Kelly Reid, Marketing Intern
If you happen to be lucky enough to spend the holiday season in Costa Rica, there's one tradition you shouldn't miss – and it's not the tamales again! Rather, it's the annual festival set up in the San Jose district of Zapote. Massive and more than a little disorienting to the uninitiated, the festival stretches across a vast expanse of asphalt (the purpose of which remains unclear the rest of the year). Finding the festival is a cinch, even in San Jose: just look for the many Ticos peddling a parking space as far as a kilometer away and you know you're close!
Once inside, the festival is much like a large state fair: delicious food of all sorts, rides that aren't for the faint of heart, and – of course – lots of beer. Pupusas were certainly a highlight for me. They are a delectable corn pouch of meat, cheese, and coleslaw all heated on a hot-top and impossible to eat in any sort of graceful fashion. Of course, that's generally the mark of successful festival food! After the pupusas, try the sweet churros. This deep-fried pastry rolled in sugar has endless varieties, but a sure hit is the one filled with creamy dulce de leche. Wash it all down with a sort-of cold beer? Now that's a great way to celebrate Christmas.
Be careful though – after that meal, you may want to avoid the ominous Tagada. This spinning ride, which seems at first glance to be harmless, is actually a death-defying affair. Riders sit in a circular ring with no more safety harnesses than their own clinging arms and they hold on tight as the circle begins to spin in every direction. The truly brave simply stand in the middle of the circle and crab-walk back and forth, trying to keep their balance as they stand nearly parallel to the ground beneath them.
Other great attractions are the snake exhibit where corals, vipers, anacondas, and pythons will eye you down; the torros, where the few brave souls that may have imbibed a bit of liquid courage will taunt a monsterous beast for fun; and the temporary dance clubs that will be packed until the wee hours of the morning.
But the real treat is the midway. Try the ring-toss, if you're feeling like a winner. Of course, you may find several minutes and several thousand colones later that the game is actually mathematically impossible (it requires each ring to add to a certain sum which, naturally, cannot be reached). But don't worry. It's all part of the experience. Have another churro and just be glad that you aren't in the frigid north!