San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Las Pintas Paint Picture Of the Coming Year

El primero de enero pinta enero. El dos de enero pinta febrero. The first of January paints January, the second of January paints February, and so on to the 12th of January, which paints December. The first 12 days of the new year are clues to the climate for the next 12 months.

This is now considered an old wives’ tale, but Vital Vargas, 94, who’s been farming and adventuring all his life, explained the importance of las pintas in the days before meteorologists provided daily weather reports on TV.

The pintas predicted rain, sun, wind and tides for the months of the coming year, so on those first 12 days, you checked the sky, the sun and the atmosphere, and this was your guide to planting, harvesting, fishing, traveling, cutting wood, mating livestock and even conceiving new members of the family, according to Vargas.

If it rains on Jan. 5 – and it always rains a little in January to bring out the coffee flowers – then you know May will be rainy. If it’s windy on Jan. 7, you know there will be winds in July. So, if you want to plant corn or beans or pineapples, you check the pintas for the best time of the year.

One did not rely solely on the pintas. Almanacs were also a part of the January tradition, and anyone engaged in farming or fishing checked the phases of the moon to see what days fell in the creciente or waxing moon and which were in the menguante or waning moon. It made all the difference, because crops planted in the menguante were stronger and more resistant to disease.

Wood cut in the menguante lasted longer and didn’t warp because the sap flowed better.

The phases of the moon also determined good days for fishing or traveling by boat.

As is often the case, there may be a scientific base behind these folk beliefs. One agricultural physiologist points out in an online article that in countries near the equator, the moon orbits closer to the Earth, and the gravitational pull on the seas and the atmosphere is stronger than in countries farther north or south. An article in English on the Rainforest Vanilla Conservation Association’s Web site ( describes how the pintas and the moon act on vanilla plants.



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