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- Photo via Ministry of Culture -

Don't miss the Independence Day Eve lantern parade

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Published on Thursday, September 14, 2023
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff


Costa Rica continues celebrating Independence week with the customary public parades, concerts and many cultural activities in every community.

Costa Rica Independence Day has been celebrated every Sept. 15, since 1821 when the Act of Independence of the Central American territories was proclaimed in Guatemala City. From that day, Costa Rica was no longer under the Spanish government and formed part of the Federation of Central American States.

The whole week began with a series of traditions whose purpose was not to forget this important date commemorating the national feeling of freedom among Costa Ricans.

One of the most ancient traditions and also one of the most anticipated by children is the well-known lantern parade, which takes place every Sept. 14 at night on Independence Day Eve.  

“Every year hundreds of children make in advance their handcrafted lanterns of all sizes, colors and very elaborate creations to carry with pride on September 14,” the Ministry of Public Education said in its statement.

According to the ministry, the lantern parade tradition began in 1953, after the 1948 revolution. There was a need to preserve national values. At that time, the teacher Víctor Manuel Ureña Arguedas (1912-1995) understood this. He was the director of San José schools and decided to take it upon himself to inspire civic spirit in the people.

He organized the first lantern parade and asked teachers from schools across the country and colleges to carry out this activity every year.

The lantern parade started at 6 p.m. when children, their parents and teachers among many people walked through their local streets carrying their lanterns and singing Costa Rica's hymns.

In San José province, a more formal ceremony will be held in the presence of San José Mayor Johnny Araya and other high-ranking government figures. Authorities will await the arrival of the Independence Torch.

Then, the torch will continue its journey until arriving in Cartago Province at approximately 8 p.m. to be received at the Cartago Municipality by President Rodrigo Chaves, the ministers' council among other top authorities.

The torch path is a traditional relay race from Guatemala down to Costa Rica. Every Sept. 13, the torch is passed between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. This route is carried out by exemplary students from different regions of the country, who are previously chosen in their schools.

According to the ministry, the torch route is a tradition of more than half a century that began at the end of the 1950s as an initiative by school professor Alfredo Cruz Bolaños, who at that time served as supervisor of the Public Education Institute.

Between 1958 and 1964, Cruz traveled through Central America learning how Independence Day was celebrated in each of the five Central American countries. Inspired by his observations, he created the idea of starting a route carrying a torch through Central America.

Tonight's civic activities will be broadcast live on channel 13, which is the official government channel.

What Costa Rica Independence Day tradition are you exploring?  We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com