San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Annual Festival de la Luz kicks off saturday

Masked dancers and high school bands will take to the streets of San José on Saturday during the country’s biggest Christmas celebration. The Festival de la Luz, or Festival of Lights, is expected to draw nearly 1 million spectators and an additional 2 million television viewers.

Started in 1998, the festival’s parade features floats and marching bands from around the country, with prizes awarded every year for the best in each category. The parade’s grand marshal is selected each year from a pool of celebrities linked to Costa Rica. This year’s grand marshal is Olympic triathlete Leonardo Chacón, from Cartago. Past marshals have included astronauts, musicians and journalists.

For those who line up early for the event, the municipality has brought back a popular pre-show to the parade that has been included in the past. The show will start at 3 p.m. and feature puppets and performances related to Costa Rica’s cultural history.

This year’s parade will begin at the National Gymnasium on the corner of La Sabana Park, in western San José, and make its way down Paseo Colón and Avenida 2, finally ending at the National Museum.

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