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Costa Rica

Costa Rica

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Many Costa Ricans celebrate Christmas with a middle-of-the-night extravaganza, says Leo Ghitis, owner of Nayara Hotels, in the country's northern highlands. "We go to midnight Mass and come home and have a huge meal at 2 a.m.," he says.

Homemade tamales, filled with either chicken or pork or vegetables and cheese, kick off the spread. Then it's onto arroz con pollo, Costa Rica's national rice dish that's made with green beans, peas, carrots, saffron, cilantro and a chopped up whole chicken.

Homemade tamales

Homemade tamales are a staple in Costa Rica.

The third course is an assortment of grilled proteins. Costa Ricans who live along the coast have seafood such as marlin, tuna, mahi mahi, shrimp and lobster while inlanders tuck into beef, pork and chicken. Sides are the same for both: rice with black beans, boiled palm fruit with sour cream and a hearts of palm salad with avocado.

Dessert is typically a coconut flan and arroz con leche — rice with milk, sugar and cinnamon.

"We top off the meal with lots of rum punch and eggnog and don't finish until 4 or 5 a.m.," says Ghitis.

Christmas Day itself is about finishing leftovers and hitting the streets for outdoor parties, he says.

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