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Trying hard not to step on a shepherd or reduce the wise men to 2, I picked my way through the large free standing nativity or belen (above) at the Casa de Los Capitanes Generales. Better known as the Tourist Information Centre just off Plaza del Adelantado, the historic courtyard under traditional Canarian wooden balconies was a subtle and unexpected bonus on my search for Christmas presence.

My original plans had melted away, popping up a day after the intended 3rd December opening of a temporary ice rink in Santa Cruz, I found the structure still at the building stage in Plaza de España. The lady in the Information Office said it should be ready tomorrow and laughed with a shrug. Oh well plenty more to see, first stop the Cabildo (Tenerife government) building, just a few steps away, for their annual belen (above) produced by the Museum of History and Anthropology. It has to be said it has got smaller over the years but is still a delight to walk around and was pulling in a steady stream of visitors. The intricate detail and great reverence shown to the Christmas story is very clear, full marks to designer Francisco Delgado Rodriguez, and best of all it’s free with a collection box for donations. This year’s charity is Hijas de la Caridad de San Vicente de Paul, a religious order formed in 1660 and dedicated to good works in the community.

Feeling suitably uplifted I felt like trying out another popular belen, this time the Caja Canarias bank headquarters in Plaza Patriotismo. The Christmas theme was hard to miss with big white shells on the outside of the building but that slightly tacky look was soon eclipsed as I stepped into the display hall. This is a big scale belen artesanal, Bethlehem seen from above as a working village either side of a mountain range. A small river runs through it and a little pond even has live fish in it. The attention to detail is amazing, from the baker putting his bread in and out of the oven to the cobbler raising his hammer and even a school of card players under a tree. For extra effect the lights dim every few minutes to give a night view with the pin pricks from houses giving a warm lived in feel. This too was free but there was no collection.

La Laguna was calling and first stop from the tram was the Museo de Ciencia y El Cosmos to see the Father Christmas iceberg. It was not my day for ice, this was just a cushion sized blob of ice on a stand, I nearly missed it, but there is a collection point underneath for children to leave letters to Papa Noel. The ice blob still can’t chill my enthusiasm for this museum, a mere 1.50 euros by paying by Bono bus ticket, get the full low down here.

The information centre gave me a boost and a tour around the back street rewarded me with some joyous window dressing. Some people really pull out the stops to make a display for Christmas, but back in Santa Cruz nature trumped them all again with the many displays of festive poinsettias in full bloom. The chicharro fish was in a sea of these red and yellow plants, they even have their own national day, 12 December. With more live music, night lighting displays and that ice rink to come, Santa Cruz and La Laguna are always worth a shopping trip, especially at Christmas time.

FACT FILE

Cabildo Belen – daily 9 am to 3 pm and 4 pm to 9.30 pm, except 24 & 31 December just morning session, 25 December, 1 & 6 January just afternoon session.

Caja Canarias Belen ““ Monday to Saturday 11 am to 1.30 pm and 5 pm to 8.30 pm, Sunday 10 am to 1 .30 pm.

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