Let’s just assume that this is a normal year, when we can all celebrate the festive December holidays like how we normally do: traveling, eating, partying and just breathing in the cool December air.
This month is arguably one of the jolliest months of the year, and the one most of us are looking forward to celebrating. With Hanukkah, Christmas Day, St. Lucia’s Day, Pancha Ganapati, New Year’s Eve and many more being celebrated in this month, the festivities just go on and on. This is usually the time when streets are decorated grandiosely with neon lights and lanterns. Everywhere you look, it feels and looks just so vibrant and happy.
We’ve listed down some of the best countries to visit to if you want the most joyful December holidays.
They say the Philippines has the longest Christmas celebration – and they’re absolutely right! This Southeast Asian nation celebrates their most important holiday from the start of the ‘ber’ month. So from September until the middle of January, grand decorations, gigantic lanterns, Christmas lights and festive songs can be found just about anywhere! Filipinos also love decorating their households. In fact, many cities hold friendly competitions of homes with the best decorations. But one of the most important traditions for Filipinos is completing a nine-day dawn mass. Everyone wakes up at four o’clock to go to Church to celebrate the days leading to the birth of Jesus Christ. After the mass, don’t forget to grab some rice cakes and hot chocolate – they’re the best Christmas food combo! And if you think the merriment ends there – wait until little children serenade you with Christmas carols! They’d literally knock on homes and sing their hearts out, equipped with handmade instruments. You can’t expect them to sing like pros, but they definitely add to the Christmas spirit.
Japan isn’t a Christian country, but Christmas is widely celebrated and is considered one of the most fun and festive seasons. Trees in parks are decorated with lights and shopping malls put up giant Christmas trees. And c’mon, who doesn’t want a White Christmas? The gorgeous snow falling in Japan in time for the holidays makes for a perfect setting for skiing and snowball fights. There are also gigantic illuminations displayed in public places that make winter strolls more memorable. And the way the lights twinkle as snow falls – can anything really get better than that? There are also European-style Christmas markets throughout the winter season from Hokkaido to Kyushu, where you can find the best ornaments and souvenirs items.
According to Estonian World, Christmas in this country has two meanings – the birth of Christ and the period of mid-winter holidays. The magic and mysticism are combined with the sacred and spiritual. And the result are absolutely beautiful and meaningful traditions. Here, children put their socks on their window ledge and every day until Christmas Eve, an elf comes and puts some sweets in them. This is also a time when families from near and far come together and in the evening, Santa visits and asks people to tell him poems in exchange of gifts. It’s good to note that Estonians claim that the first public Christmas tree was displayed in the country!
The capital of Germany, Berlin, is one of the best countries to spend December holidays in. This is where classical concerts and vibrant night markets abound. Berlin has about 50 Christmas markets set up in various locations, making it easier for locals and foreigners to find gifts and ornaments. There also fun carnivals complete with carousels for children. If you’re skipping Berlin, Munich is an ideal option as well. Considered the most picturesque Christmas destination, Munich sets up a 100-foot-tall Christmas tree for everyone to see. There also live holiday music blasted on streets, and gingerbread served on a tram crossing the old city.
If you believe in Santa Claus, you should not celebrate Christmas in Netherlands at least once. It is in Amsterdam that the tale of Santa Claus (locally called Sinterklaas) is strongly told and believed. Interestingly, Sinterklaas has been given his own holiday. Children in the Netherlands receive presents from him on December 5th, during the pakjesavond (which literally means presents giving). But unlike in other traditions, children here don’t hang stockings or socks; they leave wooden shoes out for Sinterklaas to fill. Dutch people love to separate these two holidays, and do not put up Christmas trees until after Sinterklaas. But when all decorations are up, Netherlands transforms into a magical land we’d all love to live in forever.