It's the most wonderful time of the year, and while there really is no place like home for the holidays, some of us like to pack our bags and see how Christmas is celebrated in different parts of this beautiful world. Let's take a short trip to 15 different cities that really know how to get in the spirit of the season!
1. Bruges, Belgium
Year round, but especially at Christmas, the city of Bruges looks like it's straight out of a storybook. There's a wonderful Christmas market and a Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival, not to mention the horse-drawn carriages and cobblestone streets. It's a winter wonderland, and I want to go to there.
2. Toronto, Canada
Toronto's Cavalcade of Lights was created to showcase the new City Hall in 1967. But these days, it's a gorgeous display of lights complete with music and ice skating! Plus, in Canada, there's always the possibility of actual snow for the holidays.
3. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Take a close look - this astonishing Christmas tree is floating. In fact, Rio's is the world's tallest floating Christmas tree, and each year over 100,000 people gather to watch as the tree transforms itself in a spectacular light show that tells the story of the changing of the seasons. This is a Christmas celebration you don't want to miss!
The entire city of Tokyo transforms into a winter wonderland during the Christmas season. Millions of lights illuminate throughout the city in trees, on buildings, everywhere! It's truly a magical Christmas destination!
5. Baltimore, Maryland, USA
67 years ago, Bob Hosier and Darlene Hughes started decorating their homes for Christmas. Years later, the two have been married for over 25 years and the tradition of hanging innovative decorations on Baltimore's 34th Street is going strong. The Hosiers leave books on their porch for visitors from all over the world to sign. It's truly a miracle...on 34th Street!
If you're craving some warm weather for the holidays, Singapore does it up with a six-week "Christmas in the Tropics" celebration. The districts of Orchard Road and Marina Bay become dazzling displays of lights. There is an emphasis on the incredible shopping in this area, with no shortage of Christmas shows and parties, and the festivities don't stop until after the New Year!
7. London, England
London does Christmas wholly and completely, from lights in the street to Christmas shows and concerts, ice skating, markets, rides, and parties. It's worth it alone to see Harrod's, London's fanciest department store, lit up beautifully for the holidays.
8. Erfurt, Germany
Germany has many wonderful Christmas markets, but none are quite as magical and Disney-like as that in the Cathedral Square of the town of Erfurt. Not only does the fair boast over 200 vendors, but it also has a Christmas Pyramid and nativity scene. A fairytale forest includes life-sized figurines that tell the stories of those who were significant to Erfurt's history. You can truly get lost in a winter wonderland!
9. Gävle, Sweden
The Gävle Goat has been a longstanding tradition in this Swedish town. It's a giant version of the traditional Swedish Yule Goat, and every year it is erected over the course of two days to mark the start of Advent. For a giant goat, it sure has a lot of Christmas spirit!
10. Vienna, Austria
From the middle of November through Christmas, several villages in the city of Vienna are home to Christmas markets that look as if they are straight out of a fairytale. The markets have different focuses, from Christmas decorations and warm drinks, to hand made artisan crafts and ceramics, to high end gifts and luxury items.
11. New York City, NY
The giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City is legendary, and it's breathtaking to see in person. There's nothing quite like being in the City That Never Sleeps for the holiday season -- there are enough lights and festivities to keep you celebrating for the whole month of December!
12. Medellin, Colombia
The entire city of Medellin in Colombia is lit up in fantastic splendor for Christmas every year. But the largest and most exciting display is along the Medellin River. Families gather, food vendors sell treats, and street performers come out in full force to view and celebrate the lights. The lights are complexly beautiful and based around a new theme every holiday season.
13. Kobe, Japan
Kobe isn't just known for its beef. Each year since 1995, the Kobe Luminarie light festival has been a symbol of hope and renovation in commemoration of the Great Hanshin earthquake. It's a truly amazing display, with over 200,000 individually hand painted lights.
14. Warsaw, Poland
Warsaw has three different Christmas markets, each set against a different, picturesque background. Old Town Market Place is a classically beautiful, European backdrop for a Christmas fair. Castle Square, home to the Royal Castle, is a magical setting for a holiday market, complete with artisan shops and homemade holiday treats. And the Palace of Culture and Science, a truly monumental and impressive structure, provides the most unique scene for the city's holiday celebrations.
15. Copenhagen, Denmark
Tivoli Gardens is an amusement park in Copenhagen that is converted into a beautiful Christmas market every year. You can make your way through the stalls in the park and pick up some Christmas decorations, snacks, and drinks that will keep you warm while you're on your way to ride some of the 27 rides and roller coasters they offer. Fireworks and Christmas shows only add to the holiday spirit!
Author: Nate Morgan