Any town or city can hang up a few lights in the city centre and call it a Christmas festival but there are places in the world that put the rest to shame. If you’re fed up of shoddy lights and a sad-looking tree take a look at these places that really know how to put on a show and offer the best alternative places for holidays at Christmas.
If you’ve got enough holiday to extend your holidays until the 5th of January (Three King’s Day) then there’s no place than Barcelona to spend it with Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar. On Januray 4th the three king’s touch down at the city’s port on their very own ship – Santa Eulalia and completely kitted up in velvet. Canons are fired, fireworks are let of and as the mayor of the city hands over the keys of the city to the kings, the magic of Magi officially starts. The kings are paraded through the streets in an extravagant procession of floats comprising of camels, elephants and giraffes.
While legends dating as far back as the 1820s refer to the North Pole as the rightful home of Santa Claus and his happy missus, the Finns would have us believe something else. For them, Rovaniemi, Lapland, placed just north of the Arctic Circle, is Christmas HQ. Here, kids make gingerbread treats with Mrs. Claus, enroll in Elf School or take a calligraphy class and create their Christmas lists of things to receive from the big man himself. Other region attractions are the Ranua Zoo, home to baby polar bears, wolves and moose; Sirmakko reindeer ranch, where guests can take a reindeer safari; and the Arktikum, where the riddle of Aurora Borealis is uncovered. Those looking for a really cold experience can stay in the Arctic Snow Hotel, made completely of snow and ice, however outfitted with saunas and hot tubs in which to defrost.
The Rockefeller Center lies at the heart of the New York Christmas. Its well known ice arena has been around for a long time; the tree itself is an 80-year-old tradition. Over the road, Radio City has the yearly Christmas Spectacular, featuring the Rockettes. On the southwest corner of Central Park, Columbus Circle has more than 100 sellers offering garments, snacks and beverages at the Christmas Market. Central Park has two lakes for skating and steed drawn carriage rides. Fashion’s biggest names join in the celebrations, setting up amazing Christmas window shows. The most stylish displays, at the Fifth Avenue department stores and retail chains like Saks and Bergdorf, are so impressive that they will melt the heart of even the biggest Scrooge.
The Nuremberg Christmas market (Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt) is cornerstone of German tradition, pulling in more than 2 million guests every year. Highlights include a wooden Ferris wheel, old merry go round and steam train. Not at all like every “fake” Christmas market that have been appearing in the area, Nuremberg’s Christmas Market Council is not kidding about verifying that just conventional, carefully assembled toys and christmas products are sold.
The market’s 200 select sellers additionally set up awesome displays as they seek the Most Beautiful Stall Design honor. The top three walk away with a gold, silver or bronze “Plum People” prizes. Grown-ups can appreciate Nuremberg’s spicy gingerbread and mugs of mulled wine.
For children, there’s the Toy Museum, while the German Railway Museum is a hit with everybody.
We couldn’t include a list without giving ourselves a big pat on the back could we. It’s arguably one of the finest places to spend Christmas anywhere on Earth. London has a unique festive atmosphere, steeped in tradition. Walking the city’s central streets filled with wrapped-up warm, busy shoppers and enjoying the spectacular lights of Oxford Street, which are turned on by a celebrity every year, is one of many joys of spending your holiday in the British capital.
While you’re there it would be criminal not to take a look at the iconic Trafalgar Square Christmas tree, which is an annual present from the people of Norway, sent as a token of gratitude for British support during the Second World War. Britain is also home to some of the world’s most unique Christmas traditions, like pulling Christmas crackers or attending traditional Christmas pantomimes. And you can’t miss the institutional Queen’s Speech broadcast at 3 p.m. every Christmas Day. Staying at home for Christmas also has its joys…I mean, where else can you stuff yourself silly on Yorkshire puddings and turkey?
Regarding Christmas festivals, Iceland has some oddities in the mix.Among these, 13 “Yuletide Lads” (scruffy Santas) are said to bring blessings to good youngsters for the 13 nights before Christmas. Lines of little, wonderful huts make up the Yule Town Christmas advertise on Ingólfstorg. The shopping differs each day as some stallholders set up stalls for one day only
Radiating down onto a city secured in snow and Christmas lights, Aurora Borealis presentations add to Reykjavik’s celebration feel.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Celebrations in this Mexico city are both solemn and celebratory. In the run up to 24 December you’re likely to cross paths with Mary and Joseph as locals go from home to home begging for shelter in an attempt to re-enact the journey to Bethlehem. Pinatas and ponche (a mulled fruit drink) top off a long night in the cobblestoned city, dubbed a world UNESCO heritage site due to its churches, architecture and public squares – romance and old world charm abound at every corner.
Christmas in Venice is really a window of opportunity that should not be missed. Around Christmastime the tourist hype of Venice starts to wane providing the perfect opportunity to enjoy the grandeur of Venice and its holiday decorations.
If a white Christmas isn’t your thing then San Juan might be for you. This Caribbean island provides a truly tropical Christmas experience – think multi-colored lights strung through palm trees. Lights and food and partying and partying…oh and did we mention partying?
You might think, Sri Lanka, why? While the Western world is caught up with decorating, buying and wrapping, life in Sri Lanka goes on as normal. If you want to get away from the commercialisation of Christmas then a holiday spent with loved ones away from all the hype might be exactly what you need.