Christmas around the world, all right here at home
You never have to wander very far to experience how the rest of the world celebrates Christmas, said Larry Bleiberg in USA Today. Though the holiday, in all its frenzy, “can seem like an American invention,” people all over the world have been cultivating traditions of their own for centuries, and some of those traditions have made it to these shores almost unadulterated. Below are several small-world celebrations worth seeing:
San Antonio’s famous River Walk (right) offers a big light display all season, but it’s most magical on December weekends, when it’s lined with 3,000 luminarias, or paper lanterns, and singing carolers drift past on boats. Stop by Market Square for tamales, a Mexican Noel staple.
Spanish and Native American traditions mingle in Taos, N.M., where December street fests might include bonfires and Aztec dancers, and Christmas Eve is a blowout, with a huge blaze at the ancient Taos Pueblo, a procession of the Virgin Mary, and rooftop rifle salutes.
Chicago now hosts one of the largest Christkindl markets in the U.S., drawing more than a million visitors each year. Plan to spend the whole day shopping, eating, and drinking.
Holland, Mich., a lakefront city known for its springtime tulip festival, holds a Dutch-themed winter fest that features strolling carolers and a European-style gift and food market. Kids can pet reindeer and visit with Sinterklaas, the Dutch St. Nicholas, who arrives on a white horse.
Christmas in Lancaster, Penn., is like a visit to a simpler time. Visitors can eat breakfast with Santa at Kitchen Kettle Village, a collection of shops and restaurants. At the Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum, meet Old Country characters like Belsnickel, St. Nicholas’ crotchety companion.
One otherworldly holiday tradition debuted just last month, said Arthur Levine, also in USA Today. Universal Studios’ popular Harry Potter theme parks in Hollywood and Orlando have for the first time been done up for Christmas. Lights and garlands now adorn the snow-covered shops on Diagon Alley, where the pubs sell hot (non-alcoholic) butterbeer. Meanwhile, a “stunning” animated light show is projected on the walls and turrets of Hogwarts Castle, showing fairies using their magic to conjure an enormous Christmas tree. The finale earns “oohs, ahs, and applause.”