San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Options For Holiday Fun Abound This Season

THE holiday season is here and whileTico timekeeping is infamous, the onething many appear happy to begin early isa party.Rather than just celebrating a few specialdays, such as Christmas and NewYear’s, Costa Ricans typically put theiraguinaldos (mandatory Christmas bonusesequal to one month’s salary) to good useand turn the entire month of December intoa time of merrymaking.The annual Festival de la Luz will becelebrated for the eighth consecutive yeartomorrow evening in the capital.Floats with fairytale characters andcovered with thousands of lights will leavefrom La Sabana Park, in western San José,at 6 p.m., and slowly make their way to thecenter of San José along Paseo Colón.The main roads along which the paradewill pass will be partially closed at 1 p.m.and totally closed off to vehicle traffic at 3p.m. Fireworks will announce the lightparade at 6 p.m. behind the Museum ofCosta Rican Art in La Sabana, and near theBanco Nacional and Banco CréditoAgrícola downtown.THIS is the second year running thatthe Municipality of San José has sponsoredthe traditional “Avenidazo” on the pedestrianmall downtown. From now untilChristmas Eve, evening shoppers along sixblocks of Avenida Central will find themselvesin the midst of a tropical blizzard, aspaper confetti is liberally thrown overeveryone.Decades ago, before Avenida Centralwas remodeled and turned into a pedestrianwalkway in the 1990s, the avenue wasclosed to vehicle traffic during the monthof December, and pedestrians took overthe streets for the Avenidazos.However, the holiday tradition fadedaway after the Ministry of Public Healthbanned the sale of confetti in 1989,prompted by complaints that people werethrowing dirty confetti scooped up off theground, getting it in people’s eyes andmouths. The sale of confetti remains prohibited,but this week appeared to be toleratedby the police present at theavenidazos, which begin at 6 p.m. dailyand include Christmas caroling and musicalperformances, among other culturalofferings.“I come here because it’s a CostaRican tradition and I love it,” said MaríaEugenia Quesada, as she threw large handfulsof confetti everywhere.Eduardo Mora, there with his 4-yearolddaughter Montserrat, said, “I used tocome when I was a child and loved theavenizado. Then it got dirty and wasbanned, but this year I decided to take arisk and bring my daughter. It seems safe,there are lots of police around and there isa nice atmosphere.”Officials from the Municipality of SanJosé said they are hoping to see “thousandsof Costa Ricans” show up to enjoy the traditionalpaper throwing.ANOTHER year-end tradition is Ticobullfighting – this year in a brand-newbullring in Zapote, in eastern San José.The old bullring was torn down lastyear amid fears the aging structure wasunsafe. The rebuilding of the bullringbecame a controversial issue last week asthe company Aditec, contracted by BGLConsultants to do the work, began constructionbefore it received official authorizationfrom the Municipality of San José.The work has started and stopped severaltimes, leading some fans of the corridade toros to wonder whether the bullringwill be finished on time. On Monday, theMunicipality gave permission for the workto go ahead, although the company says itwill have to use twice as many workers asplanned to finish the bullring in time.BGL consultants and the Municipalitysay everything will be ready in time for theshows, which start Dec. 22 and continueuntil Jan.2. A total of 4,000 tickets will besold for each of two daily shows, scheduledfor 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and cost from¢2,500 ($5.50) to ¢5,000 ($11).This year, professional female toreraswill take center stage in the bullfights.(Animal-lovers need not worry; Ticobullfighting is nothing like Spanish bullfighting– the bulls are teased, but notkilled.)A more gentle but equally excitingevent will be the tope, a traditional horseparade along Paseo Colón on Dec. 26. Itstarts at La Sabana Park, in western SanJosé, at noon.THIS year’s traditional Carnavalparade promises to be bigger and betterthan ever.The theme of the parade is “hope,” andthe event will be dedicated to Katia Brenes,a 22-year-old woman who generously gaveup one of her kidneys to save a man shedidn’t know (TT, Nov. 26).Although his body rejected the donatedorgan, the news helped other people in needof kidney transplants, according to MorrisMolina of the San José Festival Commission– 21 people have since been inspired to stepforward and offer to donate a kidney.The Carnaval parade is scheduled toleave the Merced Park in San José at noonon Dec. 27, with a 30-meter-long Chinesedragon leading the way.MYRIAD other year-end holidayevents have been scheduled around thecountry throughout the entire month ofDecember, including cultural activities,picture-taking sessions with Santa, musicand dance performances and a variety ofother activities. See the Calendar on pageW-10 of the Weekend section for times anddates of events.

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