Christmas is a time for celebritions across the world, crossing cultures and traditions and imbuing people with a joie de vivre that spreads long before the festival starts and lasts till New Year’s eve. Along with gifting and decorations, Christmas has spurred the growth of another industry: tourism. Multitudes specifically travel to destinations known for their fantastic Christmas celebrations and vibrant festive atmosphere, during December. Let us take a tour of some of the best places on the planet to be in during Christmastime.
New York City, New York
New York offers some of the best Christmas imagery you can appreciate, with finely pruned Christmas trees, holiday window displays, Christmas lights, carol singing, candy stands, roasted chestnuts, ice skating and more. One of the most impressive displays is the Rockefeller Christmas tree, a 69 – 100 foot Norway spruce that has been put up every year at the Rockefeller Center since 1933.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Image source: http://www.amsterdamtourism.net/santaclaus.html
Did you know that Santa Claus was introduced to the world by the Dutch, who call him Sinterklaas? The Dutch celebrate a two-part Christmas, once on December 5, Saint Nicholas’ Eve, and then again on December 25. So pretty much the whole of December, Amsterdam is ablaze with white lights, shopping avenues become inviting and people line up to skate on the frozen canals. Inside houses, children hang up boots near the fireplace on the evening of December 5, hoping they will be filled with sweets when they wake up next morning, families gather to exchange gifts as well as insulting poems (an old tradition!) and eat lavish holiday meals.
Though all of Germany comes alive with a classic Christmas vibe, Cologne stands out, with its eight different Christmas markets on both sides of the Rhine, the largest one located on the plaza in front of the city’s most iconic cathedral, the Kölner Dam. Sip a cup of hot glühwein, a spiced, mulled wine that warms the most stubborn Christmas chills, and walk along to the Weihnachtsmarkt at Roncalliplatz, in front of the cathedral. This market has 160 beautifully decorated stalls, the tallest Christmas tree in the Rhineland, cribs, merry-go-round attractions and an extraordinary variety of crafts.
Santa Claus, Indiana
Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Claus,_Indiana
“America’s Christmas hometown” Santa Claus, Indiana lives up to its name by having a wide array of Santa-themed shops and attractions, including Santa’s Candy Castle, the Santa Claus Museum, and Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari and more attractions throughout the year.
Stroll around historic Boston and experience the traditional 18th Century New England Christmas celebrations. More than 2,800 gas lamps wash the city in a surreal white glow and the impressive Christmas tree in front of Fanueil Hall is the centerpiece of a bustling holiday scene. Enjoy a performance of The Nutcracker, one of Boston’s oldest traditions, or check out the Boston Christmas Craft Festival, the annual shopping extravaganza and gingerbread house competition at Boston’s World Trade Center. Finally, Boston Christmas celebrations are not complete without the Boston Pops Orchestra, featuring great classical and light popular music by renowned composers of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Image source: http://newyearseveblog.com/top-5-cities-nye-europe/
Rome is a place where faith and tradition play a more serious role in Christmas as compared to most other parts of the world. Midnight Mass at the Parthenon is a spiritually uplifting event, in some people’s view, even more so than the one held in Vatican City. Visit the Piazza Navona Christmas Market for all kinds of Christmas sweets, toys, nativity figures, decorations and gifts. Saint Peter’s Square hosts a huge and beautiful Christmas tree, while the oldest permanent nativity scene in the world can be viewed at the Santa Maria Maggiore. Besides viewing the magnificent Christmas trees at Saint Peter’s Square, the Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum, you can view the beautiful lights dotting the ancient city, and skate from 10 pm to midnight at the outdoor skating rink near the Castel Sant’Angelo, among other interesting activities.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan celebrates Christmas like a long-lasting carnival, complete with caroling and a grand Puerto Rican Christmas dinner of roast pork, patties, rice and beans and the traditional Christmas dessert of tembleque¸a custard with coconut, cornstarch, vanilla and cinnamon. Take in the sights of Old San Juan by walking the blue-tinged cobblestone streets, visit the sacred sites of the Capilla del Cristo and the sculpture of La Rogativa, attend the Misa del Gallo or Rooster’s Mass at the historic Catedral de San Juan, and get a taste of local culture by trying on a pava, a rustic straw hat that is associated with the jibaro culture of Puerto Rico.
Aspen is more than a world famous ski resort; it is also known for great Christmas celebrations such as holiday music events, tasteful shopping streets and more. A do-not-miss event is The 12 Days of Aspen, promising visitors a full calendar of events, including concerts, ice skating, restaurant deals, yoga for skiers, free hot air balloon rides and more.
The City of Light lives up to its reputation by decking itself in white light all through Christmas in the boulevards and shopping streets. Night time presents cheerful holiday scenes of ice skating revellers gliding along gracefully on a temporary rink beneath the glow of the Eiffel Tower. You can now actually ice skate on the Eiffel Tower’s first level! Enjoy a steaming Nutella crepe or roasted chestnuts from street vendors. In sum, the atmosphere of the city during Christmastime distinctly adds to its romantic legacy.
So pack your bags and travel to some of the best Christmas destinations across the world, and experience the season of joy afresh.