Friday, March 30, 2012

Easter in Costa Rica....Religious Parades, Beach Escapes & the Famous Miel de Chiverre!

Easter Week, or Semana Santa, is easily one of the most important weeks of the year for Costa Ricans. Full of important religious ceremonies celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this predominantly Catholic country finds most locals spending this week with family in prayer, heading out to the beach areas for a short vacation, or more commonly a combination of both. Traffic can be horrendous, in part because on Good Friday public bus routes shut down completely to allow employees time to celebrate the holiday with their own families. Public transportation options become limited and can be extremely crowded and inconvenient during this holiday.

In most areas of Costa Rica, the local Catholic Church organizes traditional masses, as well as daily religious processions or celebratory parades generally starting on Holy Wednesday, and continuing through Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Sometimes these ceremonies start as early as Monday, continuing through the entire week. Usually consisting of dramatic reenactments of Jesus’ journey through Jerusalem to his crucifixion and resurrection, with fake blood in place, some of the graphic depictions are not always pleasurable for the faint of heart.

Actors, dressed as Roman soldiers, take part with a host of other easily recognized characters in the journey towards Jesus’ eventual death. Most commonly spotted in these processions or local parades are Angels, Mary Magdalene, Saint Joseph, the Virgin Mary, Apostles and naturally, Jesus, the most coveted dramatic role of all. Participants proclaim to have lived the last year free of sin, while following closely the church’s teachings, though this point could be argued in many a town. Nonetheless, considered a very serious event, large numbers of spectators line the streets to mourn, pray and celebrate.

Traditionally during Holy Week, practicing Catholics prepare special dishes centering around the main ingredient, Seafood. Keeping in line with the observance of not eating meat on Fridays during Lent, delicious typical Costa Rican dishes are shared, such as rice and shrimp, fish ceviche, fried whole fish, canned tuna, as well as a variety of local desserts such as empanadas, rice pudding, rosquillas (donuts), polvorones (cookies), eggnog, Chicha (a hot drink made from aguadulce, ginger and cinnamon), and a popular jelly made from “chiverre”, a large squash similar to a watermelon. (See recipe below.)

Catholics are given all of Lent to attend Confession, while church hours are expanded to accommodate higher numbers arriving to confess before Easter, since the sacrament is not available Thursday through Sunday. The extended hours also allow further preparation for the processions including decorating and cleaning the religious effigies, many of which will take part in up to 10 processions, requiring different colored clothing for each one.

Tourists visiting Costa Rica, or “Ticos” not attending religious ceremonies with family, all head for the beach, converting sleepy beach towns into overcrowded party zones, while hotels in both small towns and tourist hubs throughout the country are in normal years completely booked months in advance. Travelers on roads leading to and from the coastal towns can sit in traffic for hours. San Jose and other Metropolitan Areas become literally deserted ghost towns as all government institutions, schools and banks close from Thursday to Sunday, or as is the case this year, many are closing from Sunday to Sunday.

In recent years, the common practice of enforcing the “Dry Law” during Holy Week has become a bit more relaxed, with enforcement by police officials sporatic and unorganized, especially in high tourist zones. The Dry Law specifies that as of midnight on Wednesday, all bars, restaurants and liquor stores close, and no alchohol can be served or sold until Saturday. According to Catholic tradition, followers are to refrain from drinking alchoholic beverages during the mourning of Jesus Christ, until his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Even though the majority of the Costa Rican population is Catholic, many citizens stock up on liquor and beer to take them through the festive week, while other entrepreneurial spirits make a side business of selling beer and liquor out the back door or even the trunk of their car during those dates.

Though many a devoted churchgoer may still choose to indulge in a drink or two, superstitions abound, and Ticos are known to keep an eye over their shoulder during this time. Many won’t swim in the ocean on Holy Thursday or Friday, fearing they will drown because God is angry. Others believe you can turn into a fish if you get in the water on Holy Friday. Another common superstition is the thought that the earth gets hotter, causing more earthquakes during this time. Surprisingly, this has been fairly true this year, but is more likely just a coincidence. An older superstition states that it is a sin to drive a car during Holy Week, and some small towns are said to still throw nails on the street to deter anyone who would consider the sin of driving during these dates. I thankfully have personally never seen this done in my 20 years of living in Costa Rica.

In one particular town, Ortega de Santa Cruz in Guanacaste, men continue to participate in an age old tradition that involves capturing a large crocodile with their bare hands on Good Friday and tying it up to put on display in the center of town. Even though the animal is released the following day, the tradition has been under scrutiny of animal and environmental conservationists for years and each year is said to be the last. Unfortunately, it has also grown in popularity as many curiosity seekers head to the small town to witness the exhibition in person.

On the positive side, it is widely agreed upon that some of the best weather and certainly some of the best sunsets of the year happen during Holy Week, another excellent reason to be at the beach. So should you find yourself in Costa Rica during this holiday week, feel free to come join in the festivities and be sure to try the Chiverre Jelly listed below!!

Miel de Chiverre
Large chiverre
Dulce de caña in (2) tapas or 1 kilo of granular brown sugar
250 grams brown tamarindo seeds (Optional)
250 grams of coconut pieces or flakes (Optional)
(Tapas of dulce de caña are the little circular blocks of brown sugar available at every Costa Rican market.)
Over a fire or using a kitchen burner, char as much as possible of the shell of the chiverre.
When done, hit the shell firmly with a hammer to expose the contents which looks like spaghetti squash or fine hairs.
Put the insides in a clean pillowcase and use the clothes drier to reduce the moisture.
When the chiverre contents are drier, cook it in a big sturdy pot over low heat. Cover the entire flesh of the chiverre with whichever sugar you are using, white, brown or the tapa. Sprinkle with the tamarindo seeds, cinnamon, cloves, lemon or orange peel and if desired, the coconut. The chiverre will naturally produce enough liquid to complete this process.
Cover the pot and let it cook slowly over low heat for 90 minutes, stirring often to avoid sticking.
Allow to cool and either transfer to a jar or use for other dishes.
The jelly is widely used in dessert empanadas, cookies and other dishes where a touch of sweetness is desired.

Author: Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Earth Hour 2012! Spend an Hour in the Dark and Help Save our Planet!

Earth Hour is driven by the global community’s will to protect the planet we share. Earth Hour’s exponential growth – from a single-city initiative in 2007 to a global movement across 128 countries in 2010 to now in 2012 – is indicative of the growing desire for a cleaner, healthier world that is gathering momentum by the hour. Across the globe plans are underway to make Earth Hour 2012 a bigger event than ever!

At 8.30pm on Saturday 31 March 2012, Earth Hour will mark a moment of global contemplation to go beyond the hour; a collective commitment by individuals throughout the world to be the ongoing change they want to see in it.

At Hotel Makanda by the Sea, a luxury boutique hotel in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, we too will be participating in this worldwide event. We cordially invite you to join us for our “Green Drinks” cocktail hour, followed by a special “Earth Hour” themed candlelit dinner to be held poolside at our award-winning Sunspot Bar & Grill featuring specialty dishes focusing on sustainability and our ongoing commitment to minimize our Costa Rican Hotel’s carbon footprint.

1. What is Earth Hour?
Earth Hour is a global grass-roots movement encouraging individuals, businesses and governments around the world to take positive actions for the environment, and celebrating their commitment to the planet by switching off their lights for one designated hour. Earth Hour 2012 aims to show the actions that people, businesses and governments world-wide are taking to reduce their environmental impact. The highlight of Earth Hour 2012 will see the world’s most iconic landmarks go dark for one designated hour, as hundreds of millions of people transcend race, religion, culture, society, generation and geography, switching off their lights in a global celebration of their commitment to protect the one thing that unites us all – the planet.
2. When does Earth Hour take place?
Earth Hour 2012 will be held on Saturday March 31 between 8.30PM and 9.30PM in your local time zone.
3. What does Earth Hour ask people to do?
Earth Hour encourages individuals, businesses and governments to use Earth Hour as a platform to showcase to the world what measures they are taking to reduce their environmental impact. Earth Hour asks everyone to take personal accountability for their impact on the planet and make behavioural changes to facilitate a sustainable lifestyle.
4. Does this mean during Earth Hour I have to turn off everything in my home and use absolutely no electricity?
No. The main point of Earth Hour is to show the world that a solution to the world’s environmental challenges is possible if we work on them together – together our actions add up! Earth Hour only asks that you turn off non-essential lighting, safety and security lighting should remain on.
5. How long has Earth Hour been going for?
Earth Hour began in one city in 2007 when more than two million individuals and two thousand businesses in Sydney, Australia turned off their lights for one hour on Saturday 31 March 2007 to take a stand on climate change. In the space of three short years Earth Hour grew to become the greatest environmental action in history with individuals, businesses and governments across 128 countries coming together for Earth Hour 2010 to show the path to a sustainable future is a collective journey and the movement has continued to grow over the last few years.
6. Isn't switching the lights off dangerous? What about public safety?
Earth Hour only asks people to turn off the non-essential lights for one hour - not lights that affect public safety. Earth Hour is also a celebration of the planet so it’s important to enjoy the moment in a safe environment.
7. What lights can be safely switched off?
That is a decision that has to be made individually but usually the overhead lights in rooms (whether it is your house, hotel or a business), outdoor lighting that does not impact safety, computers, decorative lights, neon signs for advertising, televisions, desk lamps, the list goes on and on…. You are encouraged to make sure you have alternative light sources handy before Earth Hour starts, like candles, torches or flashlights.
8. What candles should I use for my Earth Hour event?
If you plan on burning candles during Earth Hour please choose natural, not petroleum-based products. If you're using candles, make sure you take care. Please follow these tips:
• Candles should only be used under adult supervision.
• Candles should never be left unattended.
• Candles should be kept away from children and pets.
• Extinguish candles before going to sleep.
• Keep candles away from flammable liquids and gas-combustible materials.
• Candles should be kept clear of any combustible materials such as paper, curtains and clothing.
• Candles should not be placed in windows as they can be blown over. Blinds and curtains can also catch fire.
• Candles should be placed on a stable, dry, heat-resistant surface away from drafts.
9. What is Earth Hour's position on safety?
Earth Hour wants everyone to be absolutely safe and never to turn off any lights or power that would in any way compromise the safety of any individual in a private or public space.
10. Will my city go completely black?
Earth Hour is not a black out. It is a voluntary action by its participants to show their commitment to an act of change that benefits the planet. For many businesses in city skyscrapers or for many government buildings, the lights are turned off at the end of the business day the Friday before Earth Hour. So Earth Hour is more of a fade-out in some ways than a black-out.
11. If everyone turns their lights back on at the same time will there be a power surge?
People celebrate Earth Hour in a variety of ways for different lengths of time, with many continuing to keep their lights off well beyond the designated hour. Therefore, it is highly improbable that everyone will switch their lights back on simultaneously.
12. Is Earth Hour an annual event?
Though Earth Hour began as a public statement for action on climate change, it has come to symbolize a commitment to broader environmental solutions. Earth Hour’s ‘lights out’ campaign will continue to evolve in accordance with the environmental concerns of a growing global community driven by the pursuit of a better, healthier world. Earth Hour, is as much a celebration of the planet as it is a commitment to environmentally sustainable action, so as long as the global community wants to share a unified moment of celebration and contemplation of our planet, 8.30PM – 9.30PM on the last Saturday of March will always be Earth Hour.
13. Why is Earth Hour held on the last Saturday of March?
The last weekend of March is around the time of the Spring and Autumn equinoxes in the northern and southern hemispheres respectively, which allows for near coincidental sunset times in both hemispheres, thereby ensuring the greatest visual impact for a global ‘lights out’ event.
14. How many cities/countries/landmarks took part in Earth Hour 2011?
4616 cities, towns and municipalities took part in Earth Hour 2011 across 128 countries, including 89 national capitals and 9 of the world’s 10 most populated cities.
15. What is the criteria for registering city, town or municipality participation in Earth Hour 2012?
For a city, town or municipality to be officially recognized as a participant in Earth Hour 2012 it must meet at least one of the following three criteria:
1. Have the official support of its governing authority. (e.g. Governor or Mayor)
2. Have confirmed participation of a significant landmark or icon.
3. Have the support of an official Earth Hour ambassador.
16. What does a commitment to Earth Hour mean?
By registering to Earth Hour 2012, individuals, communities and businesses are making a commitment to turn their lights off for an hour at 8.30PM on Saturday 31 March in acknowledgement of an act they will undertake for the benefit of the planet. Participation in Earth Hour is a sign of your commitment to show leadership amongst your friends, family, colleagues and competitors in finding solutions to our environmental challenges by adopting environmentally sustainable lifestyle habits and business practices on an ongoing basis.
17. Who can participate?
Anyone! Anyone who wants to unite with the global community in a worldwide celebration of the planet; anyone who believes a solution to our environmental challenges is possible through the aggregate of our actions.
18. What energy/carbon reductions have resulted from Earth Hour in previous years?
Earth Hour does not purport to be an energy/carbon reduction exercise, it is a symbolic action. Therefore, we do not engage in the measurement of energy/carbon reduction levels.
19. How can I help with Earth Hour in more ways than just turning out my lights?
For Earth Hour 2012 we are asking people, businesses and governments to go beyond the hour, to make a commitment to an act of ongoing change that benefits the planet. There are limitless things you can do on top of switching off your lights to take Earth Hour beyond the hour. Have a look at the ‘How to…’ guides page on this website for some ideas.
20. What does Earth Hour hope to achieve?
Earth Hour aims to unite communities around environmental issues by creating a forum where individuals can discuss ecological resolutions with like-minded people, by creating a channel though which businesses can exchange sustainable practices with their competitors, by building a platform that enables governments to showcase environmental leadership, and by ultimately establishing a global network of individuals, corporations and governments who are committed to the collective resolve of tackling the world’s environmental challenges.
21. How is Earth Hour 2012 different from 2011?
Earth Hour 2011 saw individuals, communities, businesses and governments across the globe come together in a moment of unity for the planet, to show the world what can be done through collective action. Earth Hour 2012 asks participants to change by committing to an act that benefits the environment and celebrating their commitment to the planet with the people of the world by participating in Earth Hour. Earth Hour 2012 is not the culmination of a climate campaign, it’s the start of a journey of behavioural change for individuals, sustainable practice for businesses, and leadership of governments on the path to global environmental reform.
22. Aren't you using a lot of electricity and resources to promote this event?
Earth Hour operations are run in a cost effective manner and apply donors' funds according to the highest standards of accountability and sustainability. We also consider and/or incorporate other climate or environmental issues as determined by the Earth Hour team and its partners.
23. Whose idea was Earth Hour?
Earth Hour came from a think tank initiated by Earth Hour Executive Director and Co-Founder, still a degree of scepticism and denial about the issue of climate change. Earth Hour came as the inspiration to rally people to the reality of climate change and start a dialogue about what we as individuals can do to help address the greatest problem facing our planet today.
24. What is Earth Hour’s relationship with WWF? Does WWF own Earth Hour?
WWF Australia co-founded Earth Hour in Sydney in 2007, facilitating Earth Hour’s rapid worldwide growth through its connection to WWF’s global network. With a presence in more than 70 countries, WWF continues to play a valuable partner role, ensuring a solid foundation and support network on which to deliver a truly global environmental message throughout the year.
25. Who are the Earth Hour partners?
Earth Hour began as a WWF-led initiative in Australia in 2007 in partnership with brand co-owners, Fairfax Media and Leo Burnett. All three partners decided from the beginning, however, that expanding Earth Hour’s global reach would require working in partnership with any organization. Earth Hour’s message has spanned the world with the help of many global partners.
26. Do you have requirements or regulations about who can or cannot partner with Earth Hour?

Any partner must uphold and support the aims and principles of Earth Hour. These include encouraging individual and community engagement on environmental issues. Encouraging conscious decisions to change the way we live in order to affect environmental reform, without the use of scare tactics or shaming.
27. Does Earth Hour welcome the support of other NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) and NFP's (Not for Profits)?
Absolutely. In fact, the success of Earth Hour would not be possible without the support of other NGOs and NFPs. Global organizations such as the World Organization of the Scout Movement and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts have been pivotal in spreading the Earth Hour message, while in some countries where there is no WWF presence, Earth Hour campaigns are orchestrated entirely by other NGOs and NFPs who share the same non-aggressive, guilt-free approach to addressing environmental issues taken by Earth Hour..
28. Are there any other social media outlets or forums for Earth Hour?
Yes, here is the most comprehensive list we have right now:
Current Earth Hour Global Social Media Profiles
Facebook Group
Flickr Photostream
More global profiles on additional networks are developing everyday.
29. What does the Earth Hour logo mean?
The standard Earth Hour '60' logo represents the 60 minutes of Earth Hour where we focus on the impact we are having on our planet and take positive action to address the environmental issues we face. For Earth Hour 2012 we have continued the ‘60+’ logo representing a commitment to add to Earth Hour a positive act for the planet that goes beyond the hour. Please publish the logo and pass the word wherever you can and show your support for our Planet!!

If you are not sure how you should be celebrating Earth Hour this year, here are some helpful suggestions on what to do:

1. Invite your friends over for a earth friendly cocktail hour and candlelit dinner.
2. Get those board games out and have some game time with friends & family in the dark.
3. Lie down and star gaze. Stars are more easily seen the less lighting there is.
4. Do something "crafty" by candlelight: paint, mould, stick, knit, quilt, paint, or?
5. Got kids? Get out the camping gear! Set up a tent and tell stories of when there was no artificial lighting, how it must have been to live in that time.
6. Play a real game of hide & seek with the kids. It has to be even more of a challenge in the dark!
7. Go to sleep early! You never get enough sleep, so here is the perfect excuse to catch up on some zzz’s.
8. While the lights are off, it’s the perfect time to change any old bulbs for new energy saving ones.
9. Why not eat all the ice-cream that's sitting in your freezer? If you've turned your appliances off along with lights for Earth Hour, then it's just melting anyway!
10. Soak in a warm tub and enjoy the silence and solitude you rarely get.
11. Plant a tree to serve as the center of next year’s celebration of Earth Hour.
12. Meditate to encourage an inner peace & tranquility in your life throughout the year.
13. Exercise. You don’t need lights to workout!
14. Read a book like they did in the old days with no distractions from television.
15. Take the dog for a walk with a flashlight. You’ll both benefit from the activity.
16. Make a list of ways you and your family can carry on the commitment to be more earth friendly throughout the year.
17. Write a personal letter to a loved one. No impersonal email this time!
18. Sing around the campfire and roast some marshmallows.
19. Arrange a candlelit massage. Your eyes are closed anyway!
20. Take advantage of that dark, alone time to spend some “amorous” time with that special someone.
Or great advice is to check out your local Earth Hour site and see if there's a place near you that will get plunged into darkness at 8.30pm on March 31st and go there to celebrate!

Let us know what you will be doing during this year's Earth Hour, we’d love to know what creative ideas you have to share with us!

Be a part of Earth Hour 2012; add your voice and take action, encourage others to join the hundreds of millions across every continent who have already spoken as one on behalf of the planet. Together we can make a difference! For further details on how you can participate in Earth Hour plus take Earth Hour - "Beyond the Hour" refer to or contact us at the Costa Rica Hotel Makanda by the Sea for more details on how we are committing to make a difference for our Planet!

Check out this inspiring Earth Hour 2012 video to see what our planet’s voice looks like. It’s an awesome power when we are work as one!!


Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.