Sunday, December 22, 2013

santiago at christmas (part 2)

one of my biggest complaints, besides the warm weather, about getting ready for christmas in the dr was that it seemed contrived. and over the top. the christmas trees that i was seeing were fake pines, decorated in a style i can only describe as "boston." like, victorian masterpiece trees. except, that kind of decoration lends well to hot cocoa, scarves and mittens and light dustings of snow.

not shorts, tee-shirts and palm trees.

when we moved from one side of the city to the other, i discovered a more authentic, caribbean christmas. 
i was stopped on my way through the neighborhood by some kids with a bucket asking for money. i wasn't sure what was up, so i gave them a few pesos. the next day, the skeleton of a "tree" was up. over the coming days, garland adorned the wires, then twinkle lights. a graffiti artist painted santa clause on the street, in the middle of the tree. a huge star adorned the top. 

a few days later, as i arrived from work, i noticed that there was an unlikely group of people on the corner. a recycled 10 gallon tin-can was atop a makeshift fire-pit - a few cinder blocks, filled with charcoal bits with an old fan casing resting on the blocks, the can atop the fan. 

i was too embarrassed to ask what was going on. the group was mixed: older grandparent-types, those pesky teenagers and kids. it seemed like the whole neighborhood was present. 
they were making ginger tea. and sharing crackers. and catching up. 
and it happened almost every night until christmas. 

since that first arbolito experience, i've sought out more. the trees in our neighborhood and close by are simple. a way to bring the community to a central meeting point. but there are neighborhoods completely transformed at christmas into wonderlands (next blog post). 

this year:
 this tree caught me by surprise - the neighborhood it's in has never had such an elaborate display before.
 this little stable is at the other end of the same street - paintings on the wall representing jesus, candy canes, candles, santa and christmas bells. 

 the tree lit at night.

i was also pleasantly surprised this year by the light display at the monument, the one tourist attraction in santiago. there has been a carnival in the parking lot for a few weeks that i've been trying to avoid driving by any time the kids are in the car, so i hadn't been by at night. but last weekend, a friend had an event at the theater across the street. 
 the gardens of the theater were lit up in red and blue lights. with the monument as their backdrop, they were splendid. the monument, which hasn't been lit at night for quite some time, was lit and there were even projections of christmas symbols thrown up in the light show.
i love christmas in santiago. 

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