It’s the beginning December and that means only one thing for most Costa Ricans: it’s ‘aguinaldo’ time.

The Bulevar in downtown San José.. Archived photo courtesy of

On Monday the Central Government paid out ¢155 billion colones to its some 183.000 public sector employees, most of who in turn have been busy at the malls and major retail chains like Walmart, spending and spending away.

All saalaried public and private sector employees are entitled to the year end annual bonus, which for simplicity sake equals to the average of one month’s salary earned between November 1 the previous year and November 30 of the current. Employees who have been on the job for less that a full year are paid a prorated amount.

Although the central government (does not include autonomous state agencies like ICE, AyA, the Banco de Costa Rica and the Banco Nacional) – is usually the first to pay the aguinaldo to its employees, by law the aguinaldo must be paid by December 20 after which an employer faces sanctions.

For some the aguinaldo is a way of saving, keeping it on deposit for a rainy day. But, from what we saw at Walmart during its “the lowest price day of the year” event, many were out spending their aguinaldo even before it was paid.

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