Yesterday Mark and I did a little day trip to Naranjo. The town is in a really pretty area northwest of San José and surrounded by coffee plantations. The setting apparently has the perfect climate and altitude for growing coffee, so it is everywhere. If you ever happen to be there, make sure you go on this coffee tour. It’s interesting, the people that work there are always so nice, and the grounds are beautiful.
This particular trip was more about reindeer than coffee however. On the road into Naranjo, we always see a giant (about 2 stories tall) twig reindeer on the left. It’s usually accompanied by a host of smaller reindeer friends, lined up and ready to buy. I see these wood shaving reindeer (especially in the months leading to Christmas) at other shops and holiday stores. I knew it was definitely a Costa Rican thing, but never realized they were all coming from one guy in Naranjo. I happened to find an article online in the Tico Times (an English newspaper aimed at we Gringos who have yet to master Spanish) about the whole thing — read the full story here. A local artist, Venancio Cordero started making them about 16 years ago and selling them through florist shops. They have since become a holiday staple in Costa Rica, and are all created in his roadside Naranjo shop. The article states that this year Cordero has 23 workers making reindeer, and they’re planning to turn out 18,000 before Christmas!!
Once I read this story, I wanted to make sure we nabbed a couple for ourselves as this will be our last Christmas here. I was having visions of us pulling out our little reindeer each Christmas and reminiscing about our time here. Anyway, Mark seemed onboard so we headed out there. I think we went a little late in the month, so there was actually nothing for sale when we arrived. But the people in the little workshop were completely obliging, and let Mark snap a few photos of the process. They were working on a few little guys at the time, but still needed about an hour before they would be done. We ran into town to grab some lunch at a local place, Tio Charley’s (that’s me next to their pig à la taxidermy out front). After a coffee run at the farmer’s co-op grocery store, we headed out of Naranjo and back toward the reindeer shop. Since lunch, two reindeer brothers were now standing near the road, as well as a couple of other small guys. In the end, we bought four, totaling $8 for the whole brood. No idea how we’re fitting these buddies into luggage when we move, but I will sort it out, Feliz Navidad!