This weekend we will be celebrating Costa Rica’s Independence Day. Tonight at our school we will be participating in a special parade that will be duplicated in every neighborhood containing a school. The Independence Day celebrations begin with a “running of the torch”. Our original colonial government was based in Guatemala. So every year a torch is run from Guatemala down through El Salvador and Nicaragua to Costa Rica. It takes a few weeks, but the children do a mini-torch run around the block around the school.
We also have a special parade around the school where all the children carry lanterns. The lanterns are called “Faroles” and they are usually homemade paper houses… swinging on a string tied to a stick… with a candle inside. Yeah. The whole thing has disaster written all over it.
I asked a friend of mine once, “Don’t the faroles ever catch on fire?”
She laughed and said, “Oh yes! All the time! Every year someone gets hot wax spilled on them or catches their lantern on fire. It’s really dangerous, but we still do it every year.” I laughed nervously.
Then I remembered another conversation I had a few years ago. I showed one of my Mexican friends a picture of my husband and son ice fishing on a frozen lake in Minnesota. She had never heard of lakes freezing over. I explained that when the ice gets a few inches thick, we drive cars out to the middle and park a little house on the ice. We cut a hole in the ice and sit in the house and fish through the hole. My friend was totally shocked!
“Don’t the cars ever fall through the ice?” she quizzed me.
“Oh yes!” I laughed, “Every year some idiot tries to drive on the ice before it’s thick enough and he falls in. Then they have to either haul the car out with a winch or wait until spring.” This did nothing to erase the shocked look from her face.
So tonight I will be giving my children their homemade faroles with little battery operated LED lights in them instead of the traditional candles. I don’t see any reason why we should give the children fire and tell them to run around the block in a herd. I think that’s just asking for trouble. We’ll see how it goes.