Mother’s Day, a national holiday in Costa Rica is celebrated on August 15 and coincides with the Catholic feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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The country’s official religion is Catholicism and as well as the religious significance, this day is a time-honored celebration when mothers are showered with gifts, flowers and goodies. Many are taken out to their favorite restaurant for a special meal, or enjoy one cooked at home by family members.

The cornerstone of Costa Rican society revolves around tradition and family ties and the role of the mother is evident in virtually every household.

The upwardly mobile elite may pay tribute to their mothers in a different way to those in humble circumstances, but few mothers go unrecognized on this their special day.

Some Costa Ricans lament the fact that Mother’s Day observances have been influenced by North American sensibilities and the significance of this day in their culture is being lost by over commercialization.

One grandmother commented. “Cards, elaborate bouquets, expensive gifts and restaurants offering ‘Mother’s Day Specials’ were unheard of when I was girl. Last year I was given a microwave oven and my daughter’s children gave her a full-day treatment at a beauty spa. It is far too much, I don’t like it,” she said.

However, one young man said. “We like to treat our mother to the best we can afford to show our appreciation for everything she does for us and has done since we were babies. Mine stayed at home, cooked, cleaned, made personal sacrifices and was always there when we needed her.”

Many others of both sexes and various ages reiterated his comments.

By definition a matriarchal society is a female-dominated system of social order and to some extent Costa Rica is one of these. Women rule the home; nevertheless, it is often not evident how much control they have. Elderly matriarchs head many households and gender roles are clearly defined. Men and women are expected to respect their roles and act differently.

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Often unsuspecting males have no inkling that the "queen bee" is using
this for her own advantage. Machismo – the "machista" way of thinking
– is still shared to some extent by most men, though not as extreme as in many
Latin American countries. The belief in the natural superiority of men is integral
to the macho male’s way of life. He expects to be waited on hand and foot by his
mother and or wife, and feels free to do as he pleases by expressing his masculinity
in amorous conquests and extra-marital affairs.

Today, many Costa Rican women have forsaken their role as homemakers and have
become progressive in their thinking and are career minded. They have obtained
a higher level of education and been successful in advancing their equal rights
as women. Many hold professional positions in business and government, yet
often maintain traditional and conservative traits
in their home.

A matriarchal society depends on leadership, strength of character and ability
to rule. Even though they don’t realize it, this is why so many of the country’s
population are tied to their mother’s apron strings and frequently live
at home until they marry; despite being able to afford to do otherwise. This accepted
custom is still the norm and both sons and daughters abide by it. After they marry
they still rely on, and highly respect their mother’s and even grandmother’s role
in the family unit.

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Fathers are not forgotten. Father’s Day falls on the third Sunday in June and
is widely celebrated, although it is not an official holiday. School children
usually organize a Mother’s Day celebration at their school for both mothers and
grandmothers who are welcome to attend. They do the same for their fathers, and
grandfathers often put in an appearance.

Many companies hold a Mother’s Day party for their female staff, and apart from
celebrating Father’s Day with their family, fathers organize some type of all-male
activity in or away from the office. However, after Christmas and Easter, Mother’s
Day is the most important traditional Costa Rican celebration and family members
all contribute to make August 15 a really special occasion for everyone.

Happy Mother’s Day! A quick video message from Scott…

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Our thanks to Ann Antkiw for her article. Ann Antkiw, a professional actor, director and English teacher has made her home in Costa Rica for the last 15 years. A freelance writer for The Tico Times and Costa Rica Outdoors, this intrepid British adventurer is writing a book about her backpacking odysseys throughout Central and South America, Africa, Australia and S.E. Asia.

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