‘Tis the season to be jolly !
Last week, at work, I was distracted by a flurry of activities around me. I got up from my desk to see teams excitedly opening gifts and squealing in delight (or not!) at the gift their “Secret Santa” had got them. Santa was unofficially in town before Christmas and how ! With the last one month of hectic activity, both at personal and professional front, I had little time to pen down my blogs. If I can manage just one blog this December, (and it is this one), it has to be around Christmas. I love the festivities, fun and joy that accompany a festival and Christmas is no exception. I am enthralled by the joy and happiness this festival brings around the world. The paraphernalia – Christmas tree, decorations, gifting, carol singing, Santa – all add to the allure of this festival.
Here’s are the top 5 places I would want to be in to celebrate this festival of joy and giving. Would you agree ?
1) SANTA CLAUS VILLAGE, ROVANIEMI, FINLAND
The official home town of probably the most famous person on this planet, Santa Claus has to be my top pick. Is it any wonder that Santa Claus Village, right on the Arctic Circle, received 300 000 annual visitors from all around the world ?
The main building of Santa Claus Holiday Village, known as Christmas House, hosts unique Christmas-theme exhibition that covers today’s customs and centuries old Christmas traditions along with fascinating Christmas videos. There is opportunity to meet Santa Claus, make memories of a life-time, obtain certificates of (meeting Santa, niceness etc) Santa Claus.
Santa Claus’ Main Post Office is the official post office of Santa Claus. The moment you step in , you are transported to the colorful world of Christmas. You can buy beautiful cards, stamps, gifts, sit by a fireplace and write to your loved ones. Cheerful Postal Elves will post your greetings and every letter sent from here gets a special Arctic Circle postmark making your letter unique ! Since 1985, this post office has received 15 million letters from 198 countries and counting. Now I know how all the letters my son wrote to Santa reached him 😉
You can form a bond with reindeer by spending time with them at farms, earn a magical diploma at a class in Elf School or spend a night in a room built entirely of snow and ice and receive Arctic Night Survival Certificate 🙂
2) NEW YORK CITY, USA
I was lucky to have been in New York city on a new year eve. Strolling through Times Square and Wall Street, enjoying the splendid Christmas decorations, we ended up at Rockefeller center. I was taken in by the tall Christmas tree there. Little did I know then that I was looking at the world’s tallest Christmas tree ! Ice skating area below it was packed with skilled (and not so skilled) skaters.
As we were taking in the spectacle, it started to snow ever so slightly covering the entire area with a light dusting of snow –making it beyond spectacular. New York did have a white Christmas that year.
3) PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
How can a celebration be complete without shopping and decorations ? Vanocni trh aka Christmas markets add to the Christmas festive magic. These markets light up the city and are the melting pot which bring locals and tourists together.
The market has gorgeously decorated wooden huts selling traditional crafts – jewellery, hats, gloves, scarves, colorful ceramics, puppets, dolls in traditional costumes and of course, the quintessential Christmas tree ornaments. One can always find something unique to take away as memento.
Christmas markets are not just about shopping. You get an opportunity to observe traditional cuisine being made and try out local produce. Feast on barbecued meat, indulge in cakes and pastries prepared right in front of you. Food can be accompanied with Czech beers or a cup of hot mulled wine – sounds just the right recipe for a cold winter evening stroll.
At the Old Town Square kids can pet farm animals in the stables setup. All over from Czech Republic, school kids travel to Prague to render Christmas carols. Dressed in their traditional costume they add to the cheer of the festival. You can also see scenes depicting Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and the Three Kings in a wooden stable. Adding to the grandeur is a mighty Christmas tree draped in a blaze of lights.
Each year, a theme is decided for the market, which I am sure the locals and visitors look forward to.
4) TROMSO, NORWAY
How about spending Christmas watching the natural show put up by the Aurora Borealis ? Located between fjords, mountain peaks and islands, Tromsø earned the nickname “Gateway to the Arctic”, as it was the starting point for expeditions to the Arctic. From September to March many people come to Tromsø as it offers one of the highest probabilities of experiencing the northern lights. A huge point in its favor is the relatively mild climate it boasts of owing to its seaside location and the warming effect of the Gulf stream.
You can book more than 70 Northern Lights activities and can choose between
- Northern Lights Chase – which use typical transport modes like boat, car, cab etc
- Northern Lights Experience – where you have a unique experiences like reindeer sledge ride, Snowman Husky Safari to add to the experience of the Northern Lights
5) BONDI BEACH, AUSTRALIA
This made it to the list purely because it is so not the picture I conjure in my mind, when I hear the word Christmas. Christmas in Australia is all about sun and sand replacing snow and fairy lights. In Australia, Christmas falls right in the middle of the hottest weather of the year! So one can enjoy plum pudding served with ice cream to help tolerate the summer temperatures, Australians also flock to Bondi Beach in Sydney on Christmas Day. While alcohol is banned on the beach, the Pavilion hosts a party with bar, DJs, food and barbecues, running from noon to 10 pm. 3000 locals and visitors throng the Pavilion while the majority others, especially families seem to prefer the alcohol-free beach. This sure would be one unique Christmas, with sunscreen, swimsuit and sunhat !
Have you spent time in these places in / around Christmas ? Do you agree ? Are there other places that I have not covered that are equally exciting ? I would love to hear back from you.
Things you may want to know before the travel (Travel tips)
- Santa Claus Village is open every day of the year
- From Rovaniemi city center local bus number 8 leaves hourly
- Other modes include taxi, car or walking – the distance is eight kilometers
- Santa is not available on December 23rd when he leaves to hand out presents to children all around the globe !
- Prague’s city center is compact and very pedestrian friendly. Book a hotel in Prague 1 (city center) and the Christmas markets will all be within easy walking distance
- Entry to the Prague Christmas markets is free
- There are excellent flight connections, several times a day from Oslo (~2 hr flight duration) as well as good connections from overseas destinations such as London, Helsinki and Stockholm
- Tromsø Airport is located just a 10-minute drive from the city center
- Tromsø has a wide range of accommodation suitable for all budgets and all needs