Seeing as we’re deep in the middle of winter in the Southern Hemisphere, now’s the time we begin to gather for a mid-winter Christmas with friends and family. Which leads us to start dreaming about a picture-perfect white Christmas, often the case for our Northern Hemisphere friends where winters are a LOT colder. Today, we’re dreaming of these ten magical places to spend Christmas.
For those who adore a Christmas market, Vienna is right on the money with one of the best in the world! With sparkling lights, festive decorations, and locally made trinkets, food and drink, the icing on the cake is to visit after a light dusting of snow, creating the ultimate winter wonderland. Rug up and wrap your hands around a hot mulled wine to keep you toasty warm while you explore all that the market has to offer.
The festive season begins around mid-November for Edinburgh with the annual Light Night event, marking when the city’s holiday lights are officially switched on. From then on, it’s hard not to get into the swing of things. Lace up your skates and head on down to Murrayfield Ice Rinks to zip your way around; treat yourself to a tasty, Christmas-themed afternoon tea at Edinburgh’s iconic The Dome; or you may be around for the annual carol service held at the nativity scene in the city.
Since Christianity is not the primary religion, Tokyo includes some unique Japanese traditions during the month of December. The ‘shortcake’ emoji that we’ve come to know, and love is what is known as Japanese Christmas cake! This light sponge cake is topped with whipped cream and strawberries, selling like hot (short) cakes in the lead up to Christmas! Christmas Day is not a national holiday in Japan, so you’ll find that everything remains open for you to explore – shopping malls, restaurants, and so on. It’s also well-known that Kentucky Fried Chicken is a popular Christmas meal amongst the Japanese, with advance bookings compulsory if you fancy this for lunch or dinner!
What better place to celebrate Christmas than the birthplace of Jesus? In the lead up to Christmas, the city is decorated with flags and lights, with crosses painted on the doors of those who are of the Christian faith. The showstopper is the annual Christmas Eve procession which is a steadfast tradition. Led by horsemen and police on Arabian horses, a cross-bearer follows on another horse, with the churchmen and government officials bringing up the rear – a poignant event to watch!
Famously known as the home of Santa, Lapland in Finland is a must visit for Christmas fans. What makes it even better is that reindeer herding is extremely popular – you can’t forget Santa’s trusty sidekicks! We’d recommend a couple of nights in Rovaniemi, a small village that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a Christmas wonderland. With quaint log cabins, sleigh rides, and delicious Finnish cuisine, you will instantly fall in love with it.
Montréal is always full of so much charm, which is only expanded with some holiday cheer. From amazing fireworks displays at the Old Port, to ice skating, there’s something for everyone. If you’re visiting between the end of November and early December, don’t miss the Nutcracker Christmas market! Being a non-profit market, this is truly one-of-a-kind. 10% of the local vendors’ earnings go towards the Nutcracker Fund for Children by the Les Grands Ballet Canadiens – a heart-warming gesture, especially during the season of giving.
Whilst Christmas celebrations begin in December, Greeks will have a concentrated two-week period full of traditional food and activities from Christmas Eve until Epiphany on January 6. As well as decorated trees, boats are also decorated in line with the country’s strong maritime history, making for a beautiful sight to see out in the harbours at night. Keep your eyes peeled for delicious, Christmas goodies – like Christopsomo (Christ bread, a round loaf with a cross in the middle), cabbage leaf rolls filled with pork, and melomakarona (honey cookies). Epiphany marks a feast day and water blessing for all Greeks to celebrate the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan River by St John the Baptist.
From the annual Queen’s Speech to the glittering lights at Oxford Street, it’s the most wonderful time of the year in London! With Christmas carols aplenty and late-night shopping, Londoners love to come together to celebrate the holidays with friends and family alike. Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without the roast turkey centrepiece, fruit mince pies, or Christmas pudding!
New York City
The Big Apple is another magical city to explore during the festive season, with entertainment galore. The lighting of the iconic Rockefeller Christmas tree is a calendar event, with people gathering hours prior to be part of the countdown as the tree transforms. If a show is up your alley, get yourself a ticket to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular musical featuring the famous Rockettes. And while you’re out and about exploring, make sure to see some department store window displays. With a new theme chosen each year to delight both adults and children alike, make sure you take a look at Macy’s and Sax Fifth Avenue!
Ho Chi Minh City
Christmas Eve is Vietnam’s celebratory day, with the city centre streets shut for the night in Ho Chi Minh. Hundreds of people gather to celebrate with confetti, gaze in awe at the Christmas lights in hotels and storefronts and grab a tasty snack from a café or local food stall. Large Nativity scenes are set up outside Catholic churches in the city, especially at the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. For a bit of a different Christmas meal, a steaming hot bowl of pho is just the ticket!