5 of the Best Christmas Festivals Around the World

If you live in a country with heavy Catholic or Christian influences, chances are Christmas is a huge deal. We’re talking about lights galore, twenty-foot tall Christmas trees, and an array of special treats for the holiday season. This is just the tip of the iceberg for cities that tend to go Christmas crazy, and many offer their own unique customs and traditions so that no two holiday celebrations are alike. Want to have a particularly festive Christmas? Check out these 5 countries which hold some of the best holiday festivals in the world. They’ll leave you jumping at the chance to indulge your wanderlust this Christmas season!

Photo via Flickr

1. Finland

If you’ve got a slight Santa obsession, then you should head to Finland’s Artic Circle to pay a visit to the annual Santa Claus Village. During the winter, the setting is truly magical and you’re sure to run into the village’s most famous resident: Santa Claus himself! Add to that decorated trees and buildings as well as the occasional reindeer, and you’ve got yourself a truly jolly experience.

Tip: Dress for Artic weather as temperatures can drop dangerously close to zero. Layer up!

2. Italy

When it comes to celebrating Christmas, the Italians go all out. Travel to Naples to see its famous Nativity scenes, take part in the Christmas Eve Mass at The Vatican, or enjoy the magical lights of Venice. Rome literally comes alive with Christmas joy and you can find huge Christmas trees at nearly every main site in the city (yes, even by the Colosseum). Buy yourself a bag of roasted chestnuts and go on a holiday stroll to take in the Christmas cheer!

Tip: There are fewer crowds during the winter so enjoying Italy’s iconic sites can be much easier. However, prepare for some chilly and rainy weather.

Photo via Flickr

3. Ireland

If you’re looking for a less traditional Christmas, consider visiting Ireland’s capital city where holiday shenanigans abound! Dublin is host to a 12 Days of Christmas Market where you can stock up on Christmas décor and try local goodies. Perhaps the most interesting traditions is watching people go for a morning swim on December 25th in the Forty Foot sea-water pool. Be sure to haul along some hot cider with a shot of whiskey in it to keep you warm while you watch the ruckus!

Tip: Some years it can snow heavily in different parts of Ireland, so driving outside of Dublin isn’t advised. I’m sure though that all the activities in the capital will keep you more than busy!

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 4. Puerto Rico

With temperatures in the 80s, Puerto Rico is the perfect choice for someone hoping to escape the cold. From early December up until Three Kings Day on January 6th, San Juan is abuzz with holiday fun. Churches all across the city conduct masses with plenty of carol singing and you’ll even find merry groups of carolers going door to door throughout the month singing to strangers. Spit-roasted pig is the traditional Christmas feast and most people partake of a huge meal on Christmas Eve.

Tip: The holidays don’t end with Christmas or New Year’s in Puerto Rico, so stick around for Three Kings Day if you want to experience a cultural treat unique to this nation.

Photo via Flickr

5. Palestine

If you’re feeling more adventurous and looking to get back to the true meaning of Christmas, get away from all the shopping and excess and travel to Jesus’ birthplace: Bethlehem. December 24th is a big holiday with plenty of activities to choose from. You can tour the Nativity Church, attend Christmas Eve Mass, or enjoy the annual parade through the city to the famous Manger Square. You can also find a variety of choirs performing throughout the city during the holidays and join in on a little Christmas singing!

Tip: There are a myriad of buses traveling from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in December and you can even catch a bus back to Jerusalem following Christmas Mass! However, it’s recommended to arrive in Bethlehem at least a day early in case there are delays.

What are some of the Christmas festivals on your travel list? Have you traveled during the holiday season and experienced celebrating Christmas overseas? Share your experiences and tips with us!