We love to see the start of the Christmas season in São Paulo – OK, so some of the tackier Christmas setups we've seen this year, not so much; but the chains of lights snaking up trees along Avenida 9 de Julho and in Parque Trianon, we love (follow our tour of the city's Christmas lights).
But if you're on the lookout for a more traditional manifestation of the Christmas spirit, a series of nativity scenes is currently on display all over town.
Pieces from Germany, Mexico, the Philippines and Brazil are featured in the exhibition ‘A Tradição do Presépio em seus Diferentes Contextos’ – ‘The Nativity Scene Tradition in its Different Contexts’ at the magnificent Palácio dos Bandeirantes. It features thirty nativity scenes – presépios, in Portuguese – each reflecting the characteristics of its cultural origin and time.
While you're there, why not take a peek at the home of the state governor? The palace’s art collection includes paintings by the Lithuanian-born, modernist painter Lasar Segall, as well as sacred artworks from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Nativities from around the world
Diversity is the theme at the Museu de Arte Sacra exhibition, ‘A Arte em Presépios’ ('Art in Nativity Scenes'). In this show, works were chosen from private collections and from the consulates of the participating countries. They range from a Peruvian scene in which the characters are shown wearing traditional clothes from the chilly Andean mountains to a Polish nativity, where the baby Jesus is nestled inside a luxurious and colourful palace.
The ‘22ª Exposição Franciscana de Presépios’ – or the ‘22nd Franciscan Nativity Scene Exibhition’ – at the Convento São Francisco de Assis, features another scene from Poland, but this one is a little more humble, constructed using cardboard and silver paper.
It's one of the 800 pieces in the Franciscans' huge collection, which means they never have to show the same nativity twice. This year, they've included 27 new pieces including scenes from Spain, Angola, Bolivia and one from the Brazilian city of Manaus, in which the cattle, donkeys and lambs have been replaced by turtles, alligators and jaguars.
If you don't have time for a museum stop, you might just spot a presépio on your way home. Take a closer look at Praça da Sé and Praça Charles Miller (right in front of Pacaembu stadium) the next time you pass by. Mary and Baby Jesus might be waiting for you.
Museu de Arte Sacra is at Avenida Tiradentes 679, Luz (3326 1373, museuartesacra.org.br). Open 10am-6pm Tue-Sun. R$6. Nativity scenes until 8 Jan.
Paróquia e Convento São Francisco de Assis is at Largo São Francisco 133, Sé (3291 2400, franciscanos.org.br). Open 10am-6pm Mon-Sun. Nativity scenes until 30 Dec.
Palácio dos Bandeirantes is at Avenida Morumbi 4500, Morumbi (2193 8282, acervo.sp.gov.br). Open 10am-5pm Tue-Sun. Nativity scenes until 8 Jan.