By Fiona Hurrell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Christmas in a different part of the world can often seem like a daunting prospect. Not only is the climate a far cry from the usual December weather, where snow and frost symbolize the coming of the winter vacation, but for newcomers, it can seem like a obstacle course when faced with the challenge of finding festive decorations and gifts for friends and loved ones.
Nevertheless, Christmas spent in the Cidade Maravilhosa need not be stressful or alien so long as one knows where to find the right ingredients for this traditional festive holiday.
One of the best ways to get in to the festive spirit is to buy a Christmas tree, (or Avore de Natal). Many shops stock an abundance of artificial trees that come in all shapes, sizes and even colors.
Arguably, the most convenient and most affordable selections can be found in any Loja Americanas store, a number of which are located throughout Zona Sul (South Zone) and beyond.
One can even purchase a tree with decorations already attached, or, for those who would prefer to design their own, Loja Americanas also stocks an assortment of loose decorations and fairy lights for both the tree and home.
Another option, for the more adventurous, is to try Saara market (Sociedade de Amigos das Adjacências da Rua da Alfândega) in Centro, open daily from 9AM – 2PM. Spanning eleven blocks, Sarra has hundreds of stores stocking a huge assortment of Christmas gifts and home decorations at very affordable prices.
Hollie Pate, member of the American School (EARJ) PTA and long time resident of Rio, agrees: “The best place to buy a tree is Saara [market]. There are tons of stores with ornaments, bows, lights etc., Cacula, is one of the best there.”
Those who have their heart set on a real Christmas tree will be hard pressed to find a winter pine although there are a hearty supply of Fir trees available in a variety of shades and sizes from local plant and garden shops. The good thing about fir trees is that they can be kept all year round and cost approximately R$70 for a small or medium sized one.
Florist assistant Wagner Resende of Kado Caminho das flores, located in both Ipanema and Copacabana, states “We have a lot of expats and locals coming in who want an authentic tree this year. It is important that they look after it with a little sunlight and some water.”
For Christmas cards, head to any number of Saraiva or Papel Craft stores which are located across Zona Sul.
Ipanema Papéis has a good selection of hand crafted Christmas cards and Saraiva megastore in Rio Sul shopping center has a particularly large assortment of 2012 diaries and Calendars which make the ideal Christmas gift for friends and loved ones.
For a good variety of gifts and decorations with a truly hand crafted feel, visit the Ferria de Hippie (Hippie Market) in Praca General Osorio Ipanema every Sunday from 8-6PM.
Finally, don’t be caught out in the Christmas rush and instead, stock up on festive treats early. Supermarket chains Zona Sul and Pão de Açúcar have shelves stacked high full of indulgent goodies such as biscuits, nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, panettone and an assortment of liquors.
Also for edible treats, Hollie Pate recommends: “You can find nice imported cookies, marzipan and other treat at Cosa Nostra on Visconde de Pirija in Ipanema.”