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Thanksgiving in Costa Rica

Thanksgiving is one of the most celebrated American holidays in Costa Rica; every year, thousands of expats gather to give thanks and dine on foods that commemorate the autumn harvest. Whether celebrating with family or new friends, it’s a day to relish familiar dishes flavored with a tropical twist – usually fresh fruits or Costa Rican versions of familiar Thanksgiving staples.

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In the Central Valley and popular beach towns, several restaurants make it easy for expats to indulge in a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Reserve in advance, and for around $30, you’ll enjoy roast turkey, stuffing, salad, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, as well as apple and pumpkin pie. You’ll share the dining room with many happy families, which helps create an air of festivity and Thanksgiving cheer. To make the holiday even more spectacular, choose a venue that overlooks the Central Valley or ocean – nighttime vistas accented by blinking city lights or spectacular sunsets will make your evening unforgettable.

Another popular option is to gather friends, family and stray expats and host a potluck dinner. All your favorite Thanksgiving foods are available at local supermarkets. Turkeys, either imported from the U.S. or purchased locally from Pipasa, cost a pretty penny: plan to spend at least $3.50 per pound, or up to $80 for the entire bird. If you don’t mind buying frozen, check your local PriceSmart. This year, I found whole turkeys for just over $40. The upscale Auto Mercado imports many Thanksgiving products, including stuffing mix, canned pumpkin, and fresh cranberries.

To keep costs down, many opt for a Costa Rican version of Thanksgiving: instead of turkey, roast a couple of chickens; stock up on sweet potatoes at the local farmers’ market; and use fresh bread and herbs to create a savory stuffing. Green beans are in season in November and apples are a Costa Rican favorite around Christmastime, so it’s easy whip up a green bean casserole or apple pie from local ingredients. My favorite Costa Rican Thanksgiving “hack” is to make a pumpkin pie out of ayote, a huge squash that resembles pumpkin in consistency, flavor and color.

After sleeping off your Thanksgiving meal coma, you may want to check online for Black Friday deals. Online retailers based in the U.S. offer incredible savings, and Costa Rican private mail services such as Aerocasillas, Jetbox and Mailboxes, Etc. have recently begun to offer Black Friday shipping deals and discounts.

Thanksgiving is an important holiday, and not just for nostalgia’s sake. Those of us who are lucky enough to live in Costa Rica, be it temporarily or long term, have a lot to be thankful for. To begin with, the weather’s nice enough to wear flip flops to Thanksgiving dinner!

Thanksgiving in Costa Rica in Pictures

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