1. You can’t avoid Conjunto Nacional’s decorations.

We’re talking bells and Christmas balls built with colorful, recycled garbage. It started as an eco trend a few years ago and stuck. Standing on the corners of Augusta Street and Paulista Avenue, Conjunto Nacional is the unofficial meeting spot of central São Paulo.

2. All shops windows have a “snow” theme and a lot of red velvet — never mind that it’s 95ºF on the streets.

White-sand beaches and palm trees doesn’t go that well with red-nosed reindeers and knit sweaters. As a result, people try to emulate what they think is a US and European Christmas, ginger cookies included. Some people go as far as decorating a fireplace with wool socks.

3. The traffic around Parque do Ibirapuera is way out of control.

As citizens leave for the holidays, the city gets calm, almost surrealistically calm. But not around the biggest and most-popular public green area, Parque do Ibirapuera. Thousands of people gather to see the special show of lights reflected in the lake every night, causing major traffic jams.

4. The streets are alive with revelers.

The Christmas lights on Estaiada Bridge, Paulista Avenue, and Rua Normandia are the main attraction, and people are walking around smiling and taking selfies.

5. Christmas choirs surround all the metro and train stations.

Also, the open piano at Sé station plays Christmas songs. And stuff like this is bound to happen:

6. A giant Santa on a bicycle greets bikers using the Faria Lima cycle lane in front of Iguatemi Mall, the oldest in town.

Not only there: in front of the Mayorship building there is ANOTHER giant, biker Santa. In an year when dozens of bike lanes were inaugurated, this is a refreshing sight. Can you imagine? Bikes in São Paulo?

7. Magazines advise “How to get ready for summer in half a day!” while heavy (and tasty!) cuscuz and farofa recipes abound.

Alas, the biggest dilemma of girls celebrating the holidays in the Southern Hemisphere: enjoy it all, but keep your “biquini body.” It’s a choice: you either eat what’s on the table or endure a crazy workout regime to keep fit. I tend to stay in the first group.

8. Panetonne is everywhere and available in every flavour imaginable.

From chocolate (chocotonne is the Brazilian take on the traditional Italian Christmas bread-like cake) to torresmo (really).

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