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By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Rio’s famous Lagoa Christmas tree was officially opened last night in spectacular style, accompanied by fireworks, concerts and ballet shows. The enormous structure sits in the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone).

The 2011 lighting of the Lagoa Christmas Tree in Rio de janeiro, Brazil news
The 2011 lighting of the Lagoa Christmas Tree in Rio, photo by Rogerio Santana/Imprensa RJ.

The theme for this year’s tree, sponsored by Bradesco Seguros, is “A Present for the Brazilian Family”, and has some impressive specs:

It stands 279ft (85m) tall, weighs 542 tonnes, and has 3.3 million bulbs and 65 miles (105km) of tube lights, all of which is mounted on a floating base of some 8,719 sq ft (810m²), according to its website.

Crowds were treated to performances by famous singers Gal Costa and Frejat and the Barra Mansa Symphonic Orchestra, and although the event only opened to the public at 6PM in the evening, people had started taking their places from earlier in the afternoon.

A number of illegal vendors who were hoping to cash in on the crowds have been caught out by police, it was reported, with many vehicles fined or towed away.

Many consider the event – which first started in 1996 and is now in its sixteenth reincarnation – the start of the festive season in the Cidade Maravilhosa, and sits in third place in terms of events in the city after Carnaval and New Year’s.

Read more (in Portuguese).

* The Rio Times Daily Update is a new feature we are offering to help keep you up-to-date with major news as it happens.

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