If you don’t live in a place that has wonderful wintry white snow for Christmas, or love to travel during the holidays, here’s a list of great places to visit that will get you in the holiday spirit.
Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
What better place to get into the Christmas spirit than the place where it all started: Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity, where tradition holds Jesus Christ was born.
The church has been an active holy site since 325 AD, and is shared by multiple Christian sects. There is a Midnight Mass hosted on Christmas Eve by the Catholic Church, which is broadcast around the world.
Whether you watch it on the television or worship in person, participating in a religious service focused on the birth of Christ will certainly give you the Christmas spirit.
The center of the Catholic Church does not disappoint when it comes to celebrating Christmas. The Vatican holds a “Midnight” Mass (which starts at 9:30 pm) in St. Peter’s Basilica for up to 15,000 lucky ticket holders. The Vatican also decorates St. Peter’s Square with a grand Christmas tree and life-sized nativity scene.
There is a Christmas Day mass in the Square, which does not require an advance ticket. It is a wonderful feeling indeed to spend Christmas in such a holy site.
National Christmas Tree Lighting
Held on December 5 this year, the National Christmas Tree Lighting is an annual tradition where the President lights a decorated Christmas tree on the Ellipse of the White House that is then illuminated for the rest of the holiday season. Each year the tree is donated from a different state or region of the country, and it is an honor for each state when their turn comes to provide the tree.
The tradition started more than 90 years ago when President Coolidge lit a tree on Christmas Eve. The tree is a major tourist destination for tourists and residents of Washington, D.C. alike.
North Pole, Alaska
While it’s not technically the North Pole, and not even in the Arctic Circle, North Pole Alaska is a fun place to visit if you like Christmas-themed activities and sites. Because of the city’s designation as the “North Pole”, the local post office receives hundreds of thousands of letters from hopeful children from across the United States.
It includes a trading post gift shop called Santa Claus House.
Outside the gift shop is the world’s largest fiberglass Santa Claus, and a small herd of domesticated reindeer, because Santa needs his reindeer.
Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center
There is nothing more romantic during the Christmas season than putting on skates and going around the rink with your love, holding hands and staying close for warmth.
Ice skating at Rockefeller Center at Christmas time is even more romantic because of the bright lights and atmosphere of downtown New York City.
Santa Claus Village, Finland
Alaska isn’t the only place that features an entire town dedicated to all things Christmas. The Santa Claus Village is an amusement park located just outside Rovaniemi, Finland.
It includes a large building where visitors can meet Santa, an opportunity to cross into the Arctic Circle, and even a Christmas theme park called SantaPark.
Vienna Christmas Markets
The Christmas markets of northern Europe originated in Germany but have become popular in other regions as well. The markets sell ornaments, souvenirs, food and drink, and other items associated with the season and the holiday.
Since the early 20th Century, Vienna, Austria, has hosted Christmas markets, and currently has more than 20 throughout the city. One market includes a gigantic skating rink. What a way to feel festive!
Leipzig Christmas Market
The Leipzig Christmas Market in Germany has been an annual event since the 1450s. The market fills up the town square with over 300 stalls and vendors selling the traditional foods and drinks, including special breads, warm wines and other treats. There are also elves’ workshops, rides, music and other events that make it especially magical for children of all ages.
There are countless places and traditions that help get us in the mood for Christmas and the holidays, many more than could make this list. Hopefully you’ll be able to mix in a few into your December and feel festive all month long.