With Christmas in full swing, there are plenty of ways to soak up that holiday cheer – even if you happen to be abroad this year.
Traveling around the holidays has its advantages. It’s easy to sneak in a trip after all – you’re already getting a paid day off, why not make the most of it and go somewhere exotic? Plus, you can dodge all the personal questions your family is sure to fling at you around the dinner table. (Unless you actually don’t mind your family, in which case the prospect of being away may dampen your spirit.)
Fear not! If Christmas 2016 finds you away from friends and loved ones, we’ve got just the thing to warm your spirits. Don’t miss these charming festivities:
Christmas in Belfast, Northern Ireland is a Blending of Traditions
The Belfast Christmas market is in full swing all season long from mid-November to three days before Christmas. This market, unlike other markets in Europe, is a blend of Continental traditions – like Germany, Spain, France, Italy – and Irish traditions.
When is it: November 19 – December 22, 2016; Open everyday
Where is it: Center of City Hall grounds
Market Hours: Mon – Wed. 10am – 8pm; Thurs – Sat 10am – 10pm;
*Last day is Thurs. December 22, 8pm
What’s there to do?
- Culinary delights like cheeses; olives; pastries, made on site by French bakers; and rare meats including kangaroo and alligator.
- Live music at Lavery’s traditional Irish bar
- Take a free tour of the market! Be sure to set it up in advance.
Cologne, Germany: Where Christmas Markets Began
Cologne may have the Christmas party to end all Christmas parties. First off, Germany started the Christmas tree tradition as we know it today. AND they started the Christmas markets that have spread to other countries. As such, you’ll likely find German influence at Christmas markets no matter where you go. However, Cologne outdoes itself.
When is it: November 21 – December 23, 2016
Where is it: The Cologne Christmas Market is not one, not two, but SEVEN individual markets spread over the city.
Market Hours: Each market has different hours so be sure to double check the time as you explore the city. Check out the different market hours on Cologne’s official site.
What’s there to do?
- Socialize with the other 2 million visitors at the markets!
- Peruse 160 wooden stalls selling Christmas-themed goodies
- Enjoy the traditional drink of the Christmas markets: mulled wine
- Watch a puppet show
- Experience a traditional Christmas market away from the commercialism
- See the glow of the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland
Quebec City, Canada Celebrates the Season with Light
Nothing brightens the cold winter nights of Quebec like the Festi Lumière. This outdoor light show owes its splendor to the 500,000 LED bulbs used to illuminate the festivities.
When is it: December 26 – January 8, 2017
Where is it: Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. Tickets may be purchased through the Quebec Aquarium.
Festival hours: Every night 6pm – 9 pm; last entry at 8:30pm
What’s there to do:
- Take a stroll through and enjoy the magic of the light displays – many of which are done up in the shape of marine animals
- Go for a round of snow tubing!
- Try your hand at one of the inflatable games
Parades are Everywhere in Mexico City
Germany may have the monopoly on Christmas markets, but Mexico has a lovely tradition all its own: Los Posadas. This tradition involves elaborate processions reenacting the Biblical story of Mary and Joseph trying to find a place to stay so baby Jesus can be born, since there was no room at the inn of Bethlehem.
When is it: Every night from December 16 – 24, 2016
Where is it: All across the country, but public processions can be found in major cities
What’s there to do: Join in on the fun through songs. If you don’t know the words, simply enjoy the colorful display and music.
Try Your Hand at Caroling in Cape Town, South Africa
Christmas in South Africa happens to fall during their summer, but the lack of snow doesn’t stop South Africans from having a good time. Caroling is popular here, especially during the Festival of Lights. Top South African performers go on stage and groups of carolers roam the streets by candlelight.
When is it: Carols by Candlelight at Somerset West is Wednesday December 14th, 2016
Where is it: Great Lawn, Vergelegen Estate – Somerset West, Western Cape
What’s there to do:
- Good old fashioned caroling
- Attend the Christmas pageant
- Picnic on the lawn! Be sure to bring your picnic basket.