Religious festivals aren't the only celebrations in Costa Rica. Ticos proudly show their patriotism on special days, remembering the people who helped make Costa Rica unique.
El Día de la Raza (Columbus Day) is the country's biggest holiday. Every year, for four days, Costa Ricans hold parades and parties to celebrate the landing of Christopher Columbus. Another important holiday honors a young boy who died fighting for freedom. In 1865 Juan Santamaría, a drummer boy, helped the Costa Rican army defeat the troops of William Walker in neighboring Nicaragua. Walker, who had become president of Nicaragua by force, wanted to enslave the Nicaraguans. The Costa Rican army went to war against Walker to keep the people of the region free. Juan Santamaría set fire to Walker's fort.
Juan was killed in the fighting, but his deed helped Costa Rica to win the battle. Every April in his home town of Alajuela, people gather to celebrate el Día de Juan Santamaría. Parades, led by rows of drummers, remind people of the brave boy who gave his life for his country.
Towns and villages hold their own annual festivals to show community spirit. Ticos party with music, food, dances, and parades. Kids take turns batting a piñata a colorful, paper mache figure filled with candy. After it bursts open, kids scramble for the sweets.