Holiday vacations ~ Getting Away from Home for the Holidays
Instead of staying home for the holidays, some of us are trying a different tack: we’re heading out on vacation.
A Christmas getaway, sometimes bringing the family along, can provide a break from the stresses of the season. It’s also a terrific way to keep gift giving to a minimum and create a new holiday vacation tradition that’s all your own.
The possibilities are limitless, from lounging on a beach or aboard a cruise ship to exploring a historic European capital or visiting sites in the Holy Land that take on special significance at this time of year.
Travel doesn’t mean giving up everything that makes the holidays special, either.
Many cruise lines offer voyages to ports in Mexico and the Caribbean in December that give passengers the opportunity to celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah the way they would at home, including enjoying traditional foods, taking part in holiday activities and even attending religious services.
With daytime temperatures in the low 80s, a trip to Hawaii can be the perfect gift for travelers who dream of spending December someplace warm.
There’s plenty of holiday vacation spirit in this tropical paradise, too, from Christmas parades to performances of “The Nutcracker.” And of course, there are Hawaii’s world-famous beaches, great for outdoor activities such as swimming, surfing and snorkeling or for simply relaxing and soaking up some sun.
Christmas in Europe
Of course Europe is a great place for a river cruise at any time of year, but it’s especially beautiful in December, when Christmas markets pop up, historic city centers are all decked out and cultural events are in full swing.
Video: Christmas Markets In Europe
To spend Christmas immersed in Old World charm of Europe.
In London, carolers sing each evening in December beneath the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square and the stores along Oxford Street sparkle with a brilliant display of lights. Both adults and children will enjoy taking in a pantomime, or “panto,” comic musicals that are a British Christmas tradition. One of the city’s biggest holiday attractions is the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, which includes Christmas markets, a “kingdom” made of ice, a skating rink and a circus.
To spend Christmas immersed in Old World charm, consider a trip to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. The ancient buildings and magnificent churches of Old Town are especially welcoming in December. Bustling Christmas markets selling traditional foods and handicrafts make for a festive atmosphere. Jazz and classical concerts, as well as opera and ballet, take place all month long in some of the city’s most historic venues, including Prague Castle.
A Christmas in the Holy Lands
A trip to the Holy Land can be an incredibly spiritual experience no matter what your faith or religion. For Christians, December is an especially meaningful time to visit. On Christmas Eve, pilgrims from all over the world gather at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem’s Manger Square to celebrate the birth of Jesus. From Nazareth, in northern Israel, to Jerusalem and beyond, the region is filled with places that make the Bible come alive.
For help planning a holiday getaway anywhere in the world, contact your travel agent.
New Year’s on Vacation
Sure, there are plenty of places to party and watch fireworks on New Year’s Eve but for travelers searching for a unique spot to ring in 2016, here are celebrations that add a little something extra to the mix.
To celebrate with an Afro-Brazilian beat, head to Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach. Offerings of flowers and candles are tossed into the water throughout the day to honor the goddess of the sea and people wear white to bring good luck for the coming year. In the evening, the music begins from stages along the beach, where partiers dance the samba.
There’s a fireworks display at midnight from barges offshore, but that’s just the beginning. Afterward, revelers head to clubs, bars and hotels to party until dawn.
On Dec. 31, Vienna’s historic old city center is transformed into a New Year’s Eve Trail, where the celebration continues until 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
Revelers stop off for food and drink and enjoy musical performances as they make their way from one open-air attraction to the next. The Graben, one of the Austrian capital’s most famous streets, becomes the site of the world’s largest outdoor ballroom, enabling partiers to waltz in the New Year.
If you’re a little rusty, the city’s dance schools are there to offer crash courses.
New Year’s Eve in Tokyo offers a chance to explore an ancient culture. There are fireworks over Tokyo Bay and plenty of restaurants and nightclubs where revelers can celebrate, but it’s the traditions such as hatsumode, in which people make the first visit of the new year to a shrine or temple to pray for health and happiness that you’ll likely remember.
At the most popular places, such as the Meiji Shrine, the atmosphere is festive, with vendors selling food and people buying charms to ensure good luck. At midnight, temple bells ring out 108 times, each one representing a temptation to overcome.
After an evening of partying, the Bahamas rings in the new year with Junkanoo, an electrifying parade that starts after midnight and lasts until dawn.
In Nassau, the capital, it’s a community-wide effort as families, friends and neighbors band together and attempt to outdo each other with music provided by cowbells, drums and whistles, elaborately choreographed dance routines and colorful costumes. The centuries-old tradition has roots in slavery but lives on as a celebration of freedom and Bahamian culture.
Of course to many, New Year’s Eve is synonymous with New York City, where a celebration has been held for more than a century. People start filling Times Square at mid afternoon and they’re treated to an all-star lineup of performers, which this year includes country music’s Carrie Underwood.
Everything leads up to 11:59 p.m., when a crystal-covered sphere will drop 70 feet in 60 seconds from 1 Times Square to herald the start of 2016, and a million revelers will be covered in a shower of confetti.
For help planning a trip to celebrate New Year’s Eve anywhere in the world,