By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The Christmas season started on Saturday in Latin America’s largest city, São Paulo, with the lighting of the traditional Christmas tree in front of the Ibirapuera Park. City officials, however, note that this will not be the only attraction during the season and expect thousands of visitors and residents alike to flock to city streets to see the decorations.
“People wait anxiously for this time of year. The Christmas decorations makes everyone appreciate even more the city where they live, and it also attracts tourists. It is a time of socializing,” said Salvador Zimbaldi, municipal Tourism Secretary.
Despite the smaller Christmas tree this year, thousands gathered along Ibirapuera Park for the inauguration ceremony, which included a show of fireworks, caravans of lighted trucks and a choir. The tree this year is the smallest since the city started the tradition, in 2002.
City officials, however, say that there is much more to see than just the Christmas tree. The sound trucks, dubbed, Illuminated Caravans, will be circulating during the weekends in São Paulo with their final destination always being the Ibirapuera Park. The caravans will have LED panels with Christmas messages from the public flashing.
The city government plans to use 600,000 lights to illuminate more than two thousand trees throughout the city. One of the city’s postcards, Avenida Paulista is expected to receive not only the government’s traditional decorations at one end of the avenue, near Rua da Consolação, but retailers and office buildings are expected to put up ornaments. In front of the famous Matarazzo Building, the traditional 8-meter Santa Claus on a bike will be on hand, but this time, say city officials he will be accompanied by Mrs. Claus.
In the bohemian neighborhood of Vila Madalena, retailers and residents have planned decorations which give value to the urban space. Graffiti artists will decorate more than two hundred telephone poles with art and plastic bottles, painted by volunteers.