San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

It’s Looking a Lot Like Christmas –And It Has for Weeks

Where to find holiday decorations?

Where not? For the past month or

so, any moderately attentive person

could walk around San José blindfolded

and bump into any number of shops

pitching lights, tinsel, plastic trees and

inflatable icons of Christmas. For something

more organic, flower sellers such as

the ones in front of the Central Bank at

Avenida Central and Calle 4 sell potted

poinsettias for about $7, or cypress wreaths

for about $2.

Those with more cash to burn will surely

tickle their seasonal decorative fancies with

trips to the malls, or to major department

stores such as Cemaco, Aliss or Universal.

What will they find?

The storefront of the downtown Universal,

on Avenida Central between Calles 3

and 5 (222-2222), is a classic image of commercial

Christmas – toys, trees and fake

snow – and the bustle inside the store

matches that of the pedestrian boulevard

outside. There are two other Universal

stores in the metropolitan area, in western

San José’s La Sabana area (296-1010) and at

Multiplaza del Este in the southeastern district

of Zapote (234-8070).

Glittery foliage is on sale three-for-two at

Universal; the blue, purple, silver, green or

gold plants are about $2-3 each. Colorful

balls about seven centimeters in diameter

appear to be the tree ornaments of choice.

The aisles are crowded, musical and filled

with everything from mini plastic wreaths

with fiberglass apples (about $14.75) to

vine-like evergreen numbers ($15-28) to a

wide variety of made-in-China Christmassy

dolls and soft felt Advent calendars. Two

helium Santas guard a small forest of artificial

trees under a helium arch.

Aliss, with four area stores, has many similar

shapes and styles, and a bit more room

to move around. There are tables of red candles,

plates, ornaments and glittery paraphernalia;

tables of green candles, plates and

ornaments; tables of blue; tables of gold; and

so on. Plastic flowers aren’t limited to their

natural colors: poinsettias come in several

shades of red, gold and purple for about $1-

3 a pop. A fabric and plastic wreath, with

poinsettias, costs about $23.

There are sparkles everywhere at Aliss. There are Santas in wood, fabric and plastic. There are soft felt Advent calendars in several manifestations – snowmen, deermen, bearmen and plain rectangles with a holly theme – with numbered pockets for each day before Christmas, of course. Christmas stockings sell for about $6-11; Christmas placemats are about $3.75; Christmas table runners are about $10-20; and Christmas tablecloths go for about $13-25.

Aliss has locations at Terramall, on the highway to Cartago, east of San José (278-5117); in the eastern suburb of Curridabat (283-0164); at Real Cariari, northwest of San José (239-1371); and in the western suburb of Escazú (289-7579).

Cemaco, also with four area stores, has most of this and more, including little European villages of (made-in-China) porcelain buildings that light up. The Lemax Village Collection includes shops, churches, banks and more, for about $30 a fixture. You can also buy a battery-operated train to snake through your village on a short length of plastic track (about $11).

Of the stores mentioned, Cemaco has the greatest selection of Christmas lights: from any or all colors of 50 lights for less than $3, to a string of 100 larger, 16-function, indoor-outdoor lights for nearly $30. In between are 100 double-filament (two colors per bulb) lights (about $7); 200 heavy-duty, outdoor lights (about $16); and 5.5-meter rope lights (about $11.50).

Cemaco stores are in the western district of Pavas (296-3711); Multiplaza Escazú (201-6363); Alajuela, northwest of San José (443-1880); and Plaza Cemaco in Zapote (280-2112).

Have a good time! And don’t forget – you can get candles at your neighborhood pulpería for less than ¢100 (about $0.20).


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