Do you love or hate Christmas? If you like all things festive then check out the following destinations that go nuts for Yuletide; festive food, fancy dress costumes, feelgood films, curious cocktails, Christmas markets and knitted sweaters are obligatory!
New York City
If you are the type of person that loves a full-on Christmas wonderland, think lots of bright lights and tons of fun activities then spending the festive period in New York City is definitely for you. The city transforms into a picture-perfect winter wonderland over the holidays and the millions of colorful sparkling lights alone are worth the trip.
You can see ice skaters gliding across the rink at Rockefeller Center with the gigantic Christmas tree, which is probably the most famous Christmas tree in the world, all lit up exuding the seasonal spirit.
There are great hotels with excellent discounts specifically designed for Christmas time. From the mid-town hotels in Manhattan you are just steps away from these great New York sights of the Rockefeller Skating Rink, Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, Awesome Fifth Avenue Festive (and then sale) Shopping and the Grand Central Terminal.
Take a festive carriage ride through Central Park with your fingers crossed for a light dusting of snow to complete the postcard image. Stroll the department stores that try to out-Christmas each other with bigger and brasher decorations. Surrounding New York neighbourhoods also hold decoration competitions, which is all taken very seriously!
Think postcard-perfect Christmas and you’ll probably envisage Finnish Lapland, with traditional reindeer, festive food and of course, Father Christmas himself! Spending your Christmas in Lapland is nothing less than magical. There is the search for ‘Father Christmas’ along with his elves and other activities and experiences like reindeer sleigh rides, snowmobile rides and husky dog sleds all taken across the beautiful arctic tundra. The land is full of magic and mystery. You can smell the crisp clean air and hear the excited barking of the huskies as they anticipate their next run.
Amsterdam in the Netherlands
In Amsterdam everything stays open during the holiday season. With luxurious hotels and fine restaurants it truly is a great way to spend your Christmas. If you love the ballet there is the ‘Nutcracker and Mouseking’ being performed by their Dutch National Ballet. The setting is a beautiful Amsterdam canal house. There are featured ice-skaters and dancers on the frozen canals.
You can experience the annual ‘Winterparade’. This event features a variety of activities and performances like music, theatre, film, and dance, all fused together into a wonderful Christmas theme. There is plenty to eat and to drink with lots of bars and restaurants close by. For those who stay on through New Year’s there is a New Year’s bash that is sure to make fond memories.
The Netherlands is where Santa Claus is reported to have been born, aka Sinterklaas. And if the canals of Amsterdam freeze over, expect an impromptu skate-off!
Goa in India
Goa in southern India has its own version of Christmas-time celebrations with the Feast of the Three kings held each January in the many Christian churches. Three boys dress as kings and ride to the church on white horses.
There are also a lot of cool things to do in Goa over the Yuletide holidays. You can visit beautiful orchards and waterways. Goa has so much going on where entertainment activities are plentiful, try go carting, bird watching, Splashdown Water Park, Club Tito’s, various water sports, movie theaters and discotheques. And much more. The beaches are breathtaking and the wildlife is unique and interesting.
Opt to spend your Christmas holiday in the Bahamas and you’ll experience a full-on carnival atmosphere. It is a time of festivals and fun activities for the whole family. There are masquerades, feasts, gift giving parties, Christmas music and more.
Gift exchange is a big thing during Yuletide in the Bahamas. Kids get candy canes and toys from Santa and native families prepare cakes and goodies for loved ones. Food is always the central theme for Christmas in the Bahamas. There are things like sorrel, ginger beer, mauby, sweet potato fly (fermented drink), rum (of course), wines, falernum, shandy and much more. You can find carol-singers going out at evening time to sing carols to the public.
No Bahaman Christmas would be complete if they left out the ‘Junkanoo Parades’. Those who take part in these parades dress up in colorful garb and dance to rhythms sounded out on drums, whistles, and cowbells. The most notable Junkanoo parades takes place in Nassau, Bimini, Abaco, Eleuthera, and Grand Bahamas.
Immerse yourself in the full Christmas experience with a trip to a Christmas Market – most major towns and cities have their own versions with festive-themed food, gifts and snacks all on offer – and there’s nothing like a Christmas Market to get you in the mood!
Rome in Italy
Let’s not forget the roots of Christmas, namely celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Rome ‘does’ Christmas like nowhere else, after all this is actually where celebrating Christmas originated. The very first Christmas Mass took place at their ‘Church of Santa Maria Maggiore’. The earliest known nativity was actually created for their ‘Rome Jubilee’ back in 1300.
At Christmas time Rome totally transform the Baroque Square into a great big Christmas market. They put up stands all over that sell things like nativity figures, decorations, toys and Christmas sweets and many other types of gifts and trinkets. They have a big merry-go-round and at night Father Christmas himself makes a personal appearance for the kids. The center of the square also features a beautiful and very large nativity scene.
Christmas time is a very special time and being able to celebrate it in places like these is a wonderful experience and opportunity.
By Julie Bowman