Tuesday December 5, 2023.

Tamaleada”- A Costa Rican Christmas Culinary Tradition 


The “Tamaleada” is a time-honored tradition that unfolds every holiday season in the heart of Costa Rican homes, weaving together flavors, heritage, and family bonds. The late-year corn harvest in November and December signals the perfect time for families to come together to feast on delightful tamales and participate in a family activity, the intricate process of their creation, called the Tamaleada. The tamale is a Christmas holiday tradition with roots stretching back to the pre-Columbian era celebrating corn, a crop deeply intertwined with Costa Rican agricultural traditions. 


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The first step towards the feast begins with the preparation of corn masa, the foundation of any tamale. Usually led by a seasoned family member, the grandmother, grandfather, or elder aunt or uncle, this crucial piece sets the tone for the entire tamale-making experience. Another team is preparing the meat, and younger family members are entrusted with cleaning the leaves. These simple tasks carry profound importance as ways of involving the next generation in the process, fostering a sense of helpfulness, joy, and a connection to tradition. 


Once all the elements are ready, assembling the tamale becomes a communal affair, with family members congregating around a large table laden with ingredients. Each person participates, wrapping tamals in leaves and tying them with twine, creating a beautiful moment of togetherness. 


Then, the tamales are cooked, and everyone waits for the highlight of the Tamaleada, a tasting ceremony. At least one tamale is distributed to everyone who participated, a moment of anticipation and joy as family members savor the culmination of their collective efforts. Tamales are divided and shared with family, friends, and neighbors, sharing a part of the Christmas spirit. 


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The Tamaleada is a cultural celebration and a testament to the values that bind Costa Rican families together. As the aromas of the tamale fill Costa Rican homes during the holiday season, they carry flavors of a cherished recipe, but the essence of a rich and enduring cultural heritage.  


If you are interested in participating in a traditional Tamaleada in Las Catalinas, Center of Joy will be hosting a tamale-making celebration on December 15th starting at 5 PM. Reservations are required, so please reserve for the event with town’s concierge.