The lights of San Joaquin de Flores are shining again this year. This traditional display of holiday lights and window scenes that have attracted visitors from all over Costa Rica has recovered from the pandemia and a two year suspension, and it’s worth the trip to join the flow of people who come out to see the lights which go on each day at 6 p.m. until the end of December.
San Joaquin de Flores is an old and charming town between Heredia and Alajuela along route three, and the area around the church is known as la Cruz del Norte.
Every Christmas season for the last twenty years the neighbors have decorated their houses, yards, and doorways with holidays scenes, reindeer, christmas trees, mangers and lights, lights, lights.
It became a tradition. The San Joaquin municipality adds lights spanning the streets and a huge well-lit arbol de navidad.
This year there is even a living manger with the Holy Family, some shepherds and animals including a donkey and some goats. After the two year lapse the display seems brighter than ever.
Take a meandering stroll around the neighborhood. Take your time. The streets are blocked off to traffic so you can cross over to see all the houses on both sides or stop to admire a favorite.
There is much to see. Wide window sills have snow scenes, teddy bears in Christmas clothes, Santa Claus, toys and dolls. Some of the houses have open doors so you can sneak a look at their Christmas trees.
There is a certain reverence to this walk. People admire, they take photos, they take it in. But quietly. Or maybe they are awestruck at what a group of about thirty families can produce. There is no charge for the walk. It’s a gift for the public.
Adding to the Christmas spirit is the sale of traditional holiday food for sale at several locations, arroz con leche, tamales, pan casero. There are restaurants and coffee shops nearby for heartier appetites. And if the church is open stop in.
The all stone building was started in 1850 but not finished until 1888 and it’s indoor beauty is enhanced with a portal and decorations to celebrate the birth of Christ. The church is surrounded by gardens and if it’s not too dark, take a walk around.
San Joaquin is an easy trip from San Jose, Heredia and Alajuela. During the week there is ample street parking and there is train from Alajuela’s airport station at 4:30 and 6:30, and from San Jose’s Atlantic station at 3:55 and 5:30.
Check the schedule at INCOFER not all trains reach San Joaquin. The red TUASA buses for Heredia also go through San Joaquin and stop just two clocks from the church.