San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Mother’s Day a Sacred Event in Costa Rica

As Mother’s Day draws near, Costa Ricans around the country are busy shopping for that special gift for mom, while families make plans to gather together to honor and celebrate motherhood. Mother’s Day is one of the most important holidays in the country, if not the most important.Why?

“Our mothers gave us life,” Carlos Manuel Calero, a taxi driver from Cartago, east of San José, responded emphatically when asked why Mother’s Day is of such great importance in his country.

Given the significance of family in Costa Rican society, motherhood is extremely valued.

“We have a devotion to mothers,” said Christy Brenes, a social studies teacher at BlueValleySchool in the western suburb of Escazú.

It is this devotion that leads families to come together on Mother’s Day, usually celebrating with a special family lunch that includes the whole extended family, since everyone needs to give thanks to their mothers, grandmothers and wives.

Most Mother’s Day celebrations revolve around giving gifts. Some people spend money taking mothers out to eat in restaurants.

As evident on television, radio and newspaper advertisements in the month or so leading up to the big day, many Costa Rican mothers receive gifts to use in the home. Blenders, rice cookers, home decorations and even large appliances such as refrigerators or stoves are given to show the utmost appreciation.

“For some, if the present isn’t big, you aren’t showing enough love,” Brenes said. Mother’s Day is also celebrated in a religious manner for some, since the Catholic Mass has a special focus on the mother.

Aug. 15, the traditional date of Mother’s Day here, is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrating the occasion of the Virgin Mary’s elevation to the heavens. This year, however, a recent reform to the country’s labor code means Mother’s Day will be observed the following Monday, Aug. 21, which to many Ticos doesn’t seem quite right.

Whether the celebration takes place on the 15th or the 21st, it is still a difficult date to grasp for those of us from up north, who are used to celebrating Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May. Though moms may not be given a national holiday in North America, they are still honored on their special day. Since May marks the beginning of spring and warm weather, it’s a nice time to give flowers and perhaps take mom out for brunch.

All this talk about Mother’s Day might lead one to wonder, “What about Father’s Day?” Interestingly enough, Father’s Day is celebrated on the same day in Costa Rica and North America: the third Sunday in June.

However, in Costa Rica it seems to go by with much less fanfare than the nationwide celebration of Día de la Madre. Here, the mother’s role as a parent is emphasized much more than the father’s, whereas in North America dads are celebrated on a more equal plane – though instead of a spring brunch, the family might enjoy a summer barbecue with dad using his new grilling equipment.

Be it Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, here in Costa Rica or elsewhere, consumerism is alive and well, with gifts topping the list of ways to show gratitude to those we love.

And as one mother’s daughter, 15-year old Carolina Lao, says, “Mothers do a lot for us; we should do something for them.”


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