Christmas is by far the biggest event in the British holiday calendar. From the middle of November, the whole country is abuzz with festive cheer and a hectic yuletide shopping frenzy. Whether you celebrate it or not, the winter celebration provides the chance for many to unwind and spend some much needed time with the family. Whilst the winter spirit may grip Britain, across the world Christmas has taken hold in many different ways. As a global holiday, it’s commonplace to spot a tinselled tree even in countries which aren’t predominantly Christian. Travellers are given the opportunity to experience a childhood holiday from the perspective of another culture, offering a once in a lifetime trip.
Cruise Nation love providing our customers with unforgettable experiences to incredible destinations, and we decided as part of our #homeoraway campaign to explore some of the wonderful ways Christmas is celebrated throughout the world. From the new takes on old classics to cultural traditions that have been around for generations, a Cruise can offer a whole new experience filled with festive charm.
For many, a cruise at Christmas is a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle associated with the season’s holiday, and to exchange the winter frost for warmer climates. Dubai is a predominantly Muslim country, although Western ways have crept in over the last few years. For most celebrating Christmas, it is done privately in individual villas and homes, although now it’s common for hotels to offer lavish meals in a decadent competition with one another. The Madinat Jumeirah resort offers Christmas festivities under a desert sun, with a winter wonderland including reindeer rides and Santa Claus. The Souk Festive Market takes place between 17th - and 27th December.
Whilst many will seek a destination closer to the equator for an authentic experience of Christmas, northern Europe provides an unforgettable visit. The Danish capital is one of the Christmas cities of the world, with the Tivoli Garden’s Christmas markets a must visit institution. Fireworks, Father Christmas and shows all await those seeking an authentic winter festival. A proud tradition of the area is building a gingerbread house, a delicious treat that’s also a firm tradition back in Britain and the US. What better way to celebrate than surrounded by snow and Christmas cheer?
An often overlooked destination for festive travellers is Cape Town. With a predominantly Christian population, it combines this religious event with glorious heat and South African cooking. For weather that’s a little less chilly, a proud tradition of the area is enjoying the Christmas meal on the pristine beach. The V & A Waterfront provides beautiful lights, alongside a series of free outdoor concerts. Christmas and boxing day are national holidays here, with the latter also known as ‘day of goodwill’. For those hoping to still enjoy a religious service whilst abroad, the boxing day tradition for locals often involves a trip to mass or for a festive service with hymns and carols.
As the birthplace of Trafalgar Square’s proud annual Christmas tree, it may come as no surprise that Oslo is one of the best places for a traditional experience. If you’re dreaming of a White Christmas then Oslo will be perfect, offering a winter wonderland of ice, snow and fjords. Traditions in Norway are a mix between the Christian tradition and old Pagan pastimes. 23rd December is Little Christmas Eve, and pre-Christmas parties called julebord are a common occurrence. Be sure to try risengrynsgrot, a hot rice pudding treat along with a glass of glogg, with main courses of pork ribs and cured raw fish. Christmas eve is the main day of celebration for Norwegians, and be sure to keep an eye out for pocket sized festive gift giver, the Christmas gnome, during this time.
From frozen valleys to the blazing outback, Sydney will offer the chance for visitors to celebrate Christmas on the beach or surf board. A roast turkey dinner, mince pies and Christmas pudding are all mainstays of the Australian yuletide menu, as the populations flocks en mass to a number of beaches including Bondi Beach. Due to being on the other side of the globe, the winter season for Brits is the height of summer for Australians, making the carols by candle light a less frosty affair. Also, be sure to keep an eye on the waves, as Santa often swaps his sleigh for a surfboard when he visits the coastal city of Sydney.
Whilst not technically in the Caribbean, it’s none the less a member of the Caribbean community and offers a heartfelt and glorious celebration at Christmas time. The event of the festive season is known as Junkanoo, and cherishes the people’s freedom from slavery in a party of dance, masquerade and singing. On December 26th and 1st January, large and loud parades begin from early morning through to the smaller hours of the next day, with troupes of well over a 1000 members all in distinct and secretly designed costumes. As well as this unique and incredible event, the area provides their own spin on Christmas cuisine. We’ve spoken about the wide range of flavours and foods in the area before, but expect garlic pork, pepper pots and lashings of ginger beer.
Germany is the home of Christmas markets. Since the 1990s, stalls offering industrial strength festive spirit have spread throughout Europe but there’s no beating the original spectacle. The port city of Hamburg welcomes over 3 million visitors to its world renowned markets, serving local produce and arts and crafts to a global audience. Advent plays a large part in German Christmas. Four weeks before the 25th, celebrations are underway, with the 6th December welcoming St. Nickolaus (Father Christmas himself), to give treats to well behaved children. This is a busy city but one that offers a postcard Christmas, with classic dishes including bratwurst and gluhwein, the original mulled wine.
For those seeking a taste of the Far East for Christmas, Singapore offers tourists an accessible and festive holiday. Christmas is a public holiday all around the country, and many of the big brands will provide shoppers a reason to celebrate with their end of year sales around this time. A must visit location over Christmas is the Orchard Road Lights, where the long strip of the shopping precinct is transformed into a glowing radiance of festive joy. From 14th November - 5th January 2014 a carnival like atmosphere descends on the city, with a marvelous meeting of East and West.
Amsterdam is one of the great port cities of Europe. With their beautiful canals and booming tourist industry, it comes as no surprise they have a proud and distinct Christmas tradition. From the giant Christmas tree in Dam Square to the varied and popular markets, Amsterdam will provide families and adults with a unique and traditional Christmas experience. The country is also home to the original Santa Claus, Sinterklaas, and his arrival by boat on 16th November 2014 signifies the beginning of the Winter frivolities. Whilst similar to Santa, the celebrations associated with Sinterklaas are a little different, offering children a great new experience of a well loved event. Rather than stockings, Dutch children place shoes at the bottom of their bed on Christmas eve. If they were good all year, they awake to find them filled with sweets and treats, and special poems are read to one another from the whole family. This offers a great way to enjoy a break from home, whilst giving the kids a twist on the family tradition.
Many may not associate the surfing capital of the world with Christmas, but the festival has been celebrated throughout the country since the arrival of protestant missionaries in the 19th Century. It’s now a major festival, but still retains some of the spirit and qualities of the native Mahahiki, a time of peace and compassion. As you’d expect for the warm temperatures of the winter period, the beaches are a prime location for Christmas celebrations, as Santa Claus comes to the island on a boat from Waikiki beach. Be sure to see the Honolulu lights, where for over 30 years a 50 ft norfolk pine has been decked in lights with an accompanying parade. Be sure to try the unique Christmas Luau menu, which features kalua pork that’s been cooked in an underground oven, often wrapped in palm leaves.
Christmas is an event that brings millions of people together in a winter celebration. Regardless of weather or past times, the spirit of togetherness and peace to all mankind is alive throughout the world. Whether you wish for respite from the cold of winter, or you wish for thick white blankets of snow, there are cruises that can offer a truly unforgettable trip for the whole family.
Do you have any special Christmas Traditions? Are you planning on staying at home or travelling for the festive period? Let us know in the comments below or get in touch on twitter @Cruisenation
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