Christmas evokes feelings of togetherness and festivity. In contemporary times it has also come to denote the annual holiday season where families plan their vacation to experience Christmas in another land. While each land has its own special way of celebrating this joyous festival, travelling to these places promises the best of the season to travellers and tourists.
The eternal city of Rome takes a special significance during the Christmas season as it is the official seat of the Pope. St Peter’s Square, one of the world’s most renowned squares in front of St Peter’s Basilica, the Pope’s enclave, is gloriously lit with a dazzling, large Christmas tree. A life-size nativity scene that is built all through December is unveiled on Christmas Eve by the Pope just before the Midnight Mass. Christmas markets come alive with street vendors, artists, street performers and plenty of amusement for children. The city bustles with operas and concerts. Christmas trees adorn all popular places in the city and nativity scenes are replicated in all shopping areas. The Pope’s Midnight Mass, that people can attend after securing a ticket, is a special attraction. Giant screens are erected around St Peter’s Square that air the Midnight Mass live. The Pope gives his Christmas greetings and prayers to all in various languages. In the end, the Pope gives his final blessings, referred to as the ‘Apostolic Blessing’ to all present in St Peter’s Square and others following the Mass via modern communications and grants the listeners a plenary indulgence.
New York City
The world’s major financial and commercial city that houses the famous Statue of Liberty on the Hudson River, is at its glorious splendour during the Christmas season. Americans from outside New York City and hundreds of tourists brave the nipping chill and frosty weather of December to spend Christmas at this world famous city. With the whole city buzzing with activity and illuminated with bright, neon lights, Christmas in New York is one of the best in the universe. There are plenty of shows performed specially for the season. From unforgettable plays to enchanting musicals to dazzling operas and Christmas on Broadway, New York City has something in store for everyone. The Christmas Spectacular by Radio City Rockettes and the Nut Cracker by the New York City Ballet at the Lincoln Centre are iconic and mesmerising performances. Singers, figure skaters and a 3D screen showing Santa’s adventures in the background join the main dancers in the spotlight and bring the spirit of Christmas in a
delightful dance. Other attractions for the season include the Christmas markets, ice skating, light shows and the train show at the New York Botanical Garden.
The giant Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center is captivating and so are other places like the Central Park, the lights at Saks Fifth Avenue, the Christmassy window displays, the decorated Empire State Building and the breathtaking view of New York City from Brooklyn. The midnight masses ringing in Christmas across all churches in the city capture the quintessence of the season of ‘joy to the world and peace to all men’.
One can soak up the Christmas spirit wholly and truly in the city celebrated for fish and chips and the Thames River. The Christmas markets and fairs, the numerous departmental stores with Santa’s grottos, the fascinating lights festivals on Regent Street, Oxford Street, Convent Garden and Carnaby Street, the hugely popular winter ice-skating, Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park that features a huge fun fair of ice rink, games, food and drink, among others turn the city into a magical fairy land. The Dickensian Christmas at Charles Dicken’s Museum has a Christmas themed exhibition to mark the season.
The gingerbread city at the Museum of London displays a model city made entirely from gingerbread as part of the celebration.
The Great Hall (which is the original set where the Potter film franchise was shot) at Harry Potter Studios is magicked into a snowy wonderland for the festive season with shimmering silver, dripping icicles and sparkling snow even as the
Mail Rail, buried deep underground has a Christmas makeover with Yuletide projections being shown on the tunnel walls, depicting Christmases of the past.
The festive horse-drawn carriage rides through Richmond Park add an exciting way to see the Royal Park. Christmas carol concerts add harmony to the season.
From St Paul’s Cathedral to Westminster Abbey, carol services take place all over the city. Likewise, midnight Christmas masses attract huge crowds in all churches and cathedrals.
All this fun, topped with some of the best of Christmas specialties such as mince pies, from the classic to the more contemporary vegan, to the mince pie-croissant hybrid, bring the best of the season to every visitor.
As the melting pot of different cultures and religions in Asia, the Christmas season in Singapore is as delightful for a traveller as the other parts of the western world of Europe and America. It has a charming Asian twist to the festivity and the whole city turns into merriment with a variety of entertainment on offer.
The famous shopping area on Orchard Road is decorated and decked up with Christmas themes and promises to give every shopper an amazing shopping experience.
The Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay is another popular place that sports
Christmas-themed fairs. An extravaganza of lights, sounds and spectacle greet the traveller even as he can shop at the Festive Market,
meet Santa at Asia’s largest Santa Grotto and also skate under the starry night.
The best of the season’s menu is spread in every eatery, big and small and one can indulge in impressive and delectable varieties both traditional and contemporary and all
with an Asian twist of spicy seasoning to it. Though it may not be a White Christmas, Christmas is as big and dazzling in Singapore as in the West and the festive spirit is at its paramount.
In what is one of India’s most celebrated tourist locations, Goa, a former colony of the Portuguese, is at its all-time glory during the Christmas season. Best known for its beaches, churches and gourmet cuisine during December, Goa is decked up with lights and decorations giving a festive vibe and energy to the city.
With midnight masses celebrated in all the several churches in Goa, one can soak up the quintessence of Christmas to its fullest. The choirs are at their best with an elaborate crib built in all the churches. The services are heart-warming and reminiscent of the First Christmas at Bethlehem. Visiting the Basilica of Bom Jesus where the body of St Francis Xavier, the Patron Saint for India lies, can especially be significant while commemorating the Nativity of Jesus.
Whether it is in taking a charming cruise in the Mandovi River or being at the glittering light show and fireworks at various places in the city, the celebration on offer is a visual treat for any visitor. Moving from the treat to the eyes to a gastronomical treat, Goa offers a sumptuous spread rich in flavours and taste. From a traditional Christmas dinner to more contemporary ones, a wide variety of cuisines are on the menu at all restaurants, including the popular beach shacks. Roast turkey, pork sorpotel, plum cakes, stuffed chicken and a complete variety of grilled seafood are all on the cards. To top it all up is the most sought after Goan dessert called bebinca which is an all-time favourite.
Across the world, Christmas is all about good tidings and happiness. Let’s ring in the goodness!