GUATEMALA CITY – Tens of thousands of people turned out this weekend in the capital for the lighting of a giant Christmas tree bearing a message of peace for Guatemala.
About 40,000 people attended the lighting ceremony on Saturday night in Guatemala City’s Plaza del Obelisco, enjoying an event whose goal is to help Guatemalans welcome the holiday season in a festive and magical atmosphere.
Cerveceria Centro Americana, whose Gallo brand is the top-selling beer in the country, has been sponsoring giant Christmas trees and annual lighting ceremonies since 1985, when the first event took place in an effort to send a message of national unity.
The countdown started at 7:30 pm as the crowd watched the more than 1.5 million lights on the 40-meter (131-foot) tree in Guatemala City and those on 33 other Christmas trees around the country light up simultaneously.
The Christmas tree, which will remain lit until January, marks the start of “the most beautiful time of the year in Guatemala, the year-end holidays,” Cerveceria Centro Americana executive Ricardo Gavarrete said.
People attending the ceremony enjoyed holiday music, Christmas decorations, snowmen, fireworks and a visit from Santa Claus.