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).