Jingle bells, laughs and smiles, Santa’s on the way! With all the holiday cheers and joyful melody playing everywhere we go, it’s impossible not to get into the Christmas mood. The fun, the festivities, the beautiful fireworks, AHHHHH I’M SO EXCITED!!!
In all honesty though, I’ve never really celebrated Christmas like my friends do, preparing a week before, buying gifts for the whole family… but of course, being the self-indulgent person that I am, I would use this as an excuse to flood myself with self-bought gifts *wink*.
As a self-proclaimed gift connoisseur *ahem*, let me tell you the best gift you can give yourself: A trip to any one of these places for Christmas. Sure, it’ll put a little hole in your wallet, but the joy you’ll get is worth it.
Santa Claus Village
Getting to meet Santa Claus is probably many children’s dream when they were little, and although we grow up understanding Santa Claus is a made-up persona, there’s always that part inside all of us that still want to meet him. We often imagine how Santa’s office would be like. Will it be filled with presents? Are all the little elves there too? What about the red-nosed reindeer?
Well, prepare to have that wish come true, for in Rovaniemi, Finland lies a Santa Claus Village where you can meet the nicest man on earth in his office. The Santa Claus Office is located at the heart of the village, in a cosy cottage-style home that lights up 365 days a year. Inside, you’ll find gifts lying around, and you might even chance upon Santa’s elves sneaking around, capturing you in a beautifully candid moment.
More information can be found on their website: https://santaclausvillage.info/
Credit: Mike McBey
Known as Il-Milied in Malta, Christmas is a season of joyous celebration and religious significance. In this predominantly-Catholic community, Christmas holds a special place in their hearts, where celebrations are both religious and social, with churches flooded with people, streets adorned with stunning lights and decorations, and joyful melody filling the air with all the caroling.
Credit: Christmark Chircop
If you’re really chanced with the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in Malta, you should explore its Christmas cribs. It’s a big thing over there, where it can be found on almost every street corner of the city. Many cribs now feature mechanical parts and moving figurines, as opposed to the simple designs of their predecessors.
Another uniquely Maltese Christmas tradition that you should try at least once is to attend their midnight mass and early breakfast — and by early, I mean as early as 1.00 a.m. (which really, to us Malaysians, is supper). Despite the ungodly hours, the mass is very well attended, and traditionally, a child would deliver the sermon in place of the priest.
Credit: Ben n Rebecca McIntyre
There’s only one thing better than gifting yourself a trip during Christmas: buying more gifts during that said trip. The Nuremberg Christmas Market, otherwise known as Nurnberger Christkindlesmarkt in German, pulls in over 2 million visitors a year, where only traditional handmade toys and good will be put up for sale; zero mass-produced plastic items.
Held from 30th November to 24th December, the market hosts 200 select vendors, where the stalls will usually be beautifully decorated, as they compete for the Most Beautiful Stall Design award. You can find everything from traditional products and food, to arts and craft, where certain booths will even support charitable projects with every purchase.
Credit: Greg Kruk
Christmas on its own can be a magical festival, with beautiful lights and colourful decorations adorning the streets of cities all around the world. Celebrating it at Reykjavik, Iceland will make it even more magical, for you’ll also be illuminated by the enchanting Northern Lights.
In Reykjavik also lies Laugardalur Christmas Valley, where you can visit the animals Reykjavik Zoo or just skate around at the ice-skating rink in the Reykjavik Family Park. Some say, if you wander around the valley, you might run into some of the many Icelandic Christmas Creatures, like the Yule Cat.
Salzburg is where the Advent really comes alive, with markets, events, and exhibitions set up leading towards Christmas. Starting from the end of November, this festive city becomes even more radiant with the smell of hot chestnuts and mulled wine filling the air as you stroll through the streets.
The Advent events bring traditions and music to the street, presenting eerily captivating moments of Krampus and Percht, beautifully captured on parades. Interesting fact, Salzburg is also the place where ‘Silent Night’ was made, so if you have the chance to go to the Salzburg Advent Singing, don’t miss it.
BONUS: Portuguese Settlement, Melaka
Well, if overseas travel is out of the question for your wallet, you can always head to Melaka to get into the mood. The homeowners there would normally put up some over-the-top Christmas decorations in their little bid to outdo each other. If you ask, they would probably allow you to take some pictures.
While you’re there, should you be able to find any, be sure to try their Christmas food. They have a unique mix of local Malaysian with Western food that they bring to the table. I once went over to a friend’s house for Christmas, and was delighted to see lasagna and sambal prawn on the same table.