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Embark on a festive adventure with these nine holiday hotspots!

Words By Carrie Hutchison

Discover Christmas celebrations around the world!

It’s a time of year many of us take holidays, but rather than spending your annual leave executing rolling feasts and entertaining activities for the whole family, take a break.

Whether your dream is to relax and let someone else do all the work or explore festive traditions around the world, here are nine destinations to have yourself a merry little Christmas – and maybe even catch a glimpse of the man in red.



Christmas with Canucks

Keen to experience a white Christmas? Head to Canada, where sparkling winter wonderlands and atmospheric Christmas markets are created in city squares and other attractions. In Vancouver, half a million lights and decorations create a stunning display of festive illuminations at the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

Toronto has a Christmas market in the Distillery District. Also popular are the Christmas flower shows at the Allan Garden and Centennial Park conservatories. With its French influences, the city of Québec bursts with culture during the festive season. Join a costumed Cicérone Tours guide to discover the early traditions of Christmas. Walk from Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church in Place Royale to the end of Rue du Petit-Champlain after dark to marvel at the superb display of lights.


Konnichiwa, Christmas!

Only about 1% of the Japanese population is Christian and Christmas isn’t even a national holiday, but it’s still an occasion taken seriously. No matter where you are in the country, there are stunning winter illuminations and Christmas markets, including some customary traditions. Enjoy a slice of kurisumasu keki, or Japanese Christmas cake. Sold on street corners, it’s a light-as-a-feather sponge, frosted with whipped cream and topped with strawberries.
Perhaps a little surprisingly, the most popular meal for Japanese people on Christmas Eve is KFC. In 1974, the company launched the Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii! (Kentucky for Christmas!) campaign, and now families order their special meal up to six weeks ahead.

Winter wonderland

Make all your Christmas movie fantasies come true in New York. During the day, visit department stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue to ogle their famous Christmas windows. When the sun sets, head to the Rockefeller Center, and skate beneath one of the world’s tallest Christmas trees, which stands at 75-feet high.
There are several Christmas markets across the city, with the biggest at Bryant Park. There’s an ice rink here too, and you can pick up small souvenirs like New York taxi Christmas ornaments.

Don’t forget to book your tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, starring dancers The Rockettes, or the New York City Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker.

Kiwi celebrations

You can have the best of both worlds in New Zealand – whatever your favourite style of holiday. Queenstown is a thrill seeker’s paradise, with hiking, ziplining, jet boating and horse riding all on the agenda.
For the big day, head to Nest Kitchen & Bar on Lake Wakatipu or Stratosfare at the top of Queenstown Gondola for a memorable Christmas feast with a view. With its Scottish heritage, Dunedin brings the festive flavour, with Santa parades, markets and incredible light displays, including at Larnach Castle.

Bula blessings

Fijians certainly know how to celebrate. Christmas festivities begin in villages two weeks before 25 December, with ‘meke’ fan (women) and spear (men) dances, carolling, and feasting, which continue until New Year’s Day. At your resort, spend the morning on the beach in preparation for lunch. Expect a buffet overflowing with traditional fare, including lashings of fresh seafood. There might also be a lovo feast – usually chicken, pork, fish, cassava, dalo (taro root) and other vegetables – cooked in an earth oven. Due to time differences, Santa usually arrives on a speed boat in the afternoon.

Fireworks and festivities for Indonesia

Selamat Hari Natal! That’s Merry Christmas in Bahasa, and you’ll hear it everywhere around Bali at this time of year. If your tradition is to enjoy a Christmas Eve seafood feast, keep it alive at Jimbaran Bay’s beachside restaurants, where the sunset is as spectacular as the lobster, prawns and fish on the plate. Make a booking for Christmas Day at one of Bali’s popular beach clubs. Many host huge Christmas feasts for lunch and dinner. If you’re there after dark, keep an eye on the sky because a huge display of fireworks is a certainty.

Season’s greetings from Singapore

Singapore’s Orchard Road was first lit up for the holidays in 1984, and now Christmas on Great Street is an annual event. As well as being a visual treat, most of the retailers offer great deals and special buys. The city’s many restaurants get into the celebrations, adding Yuletide menus to their offerings. But perhaps the most festive place in Singapore is the Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay. Shop at the festive market, go ice skating, visit the biggest Santa Grotto in Asia, play carnival games and stroll among the dazzling lights and decorations.

At home with Father Christmas

If you want to visit Kris Kringle’s hometown, book tickets to Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland. It’s the permanent home of Santa’s village, but at Christmas, with a thick layer of snow, it’s a magical destination.
Meet the man himself, as well as his elves and reindeer, send a letter from his post office, or step across the Arctic Circle and help decorate the tree. While you’re there, take a sled ride behind a team of huskies and book a night in one of Santa’s igloos – glass constructions from where you might be able to spot the northern lights.

Santa’s spooky sidekick

For a festive fling with a difference, head to Austria where, apart from incredible Christmas markets, the holiday features Krampus. This halfgoat, half-demon is believed to be Saint Nicholas’ naughty twin, and is used as a threat to misbehaving children at Christmas.
Across Austria, the Krampus Parade, usually held on or around 5 December, sees a night-time procession of scarily dressed and masked monsters, some carrying torches, others flicking whips at the crowd. In Salzburg, more than 200 parade clubs spend months preparing for the night, making costumes and planning the party.