December is a time to get into the festive spirit around the globe. Here’s how.
From Christmas to Hanukah and on through to New Year, December is a time of family, friends and oh so much holiday cheer. Here are five ways to get into the festive spirit around the globe.
1. Get finger lickin’ in Japan
Shibuya's famous 'Blue Cave', Tokyo: credit iStock
Christmas in Japan is about two things – fairy lights and fried chicken. Stripped of religious connotations in this majority Shinto and Buddhist nation, the festive season is embraced as an excuse to drape every surface in LED lights. Wrap up warm and head to Roppongi, Marunouchi or Shibuya in Tokyo to see the concrete jungle festooned in millions of tiny bulbs; Shibuya's 'Blue Cave' (pictured) makes for a particularly arresting sight. One tradition, however, truly defines Japanese Christmas – KFC. That’s right, ever since the iconic ’70s Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii! (Kentucky for Christmas) campaign, millions of families pre-order buckets of the Colonel’s best weeks ahead for a finger lickin’ chicken dinner.
2. Step into a fairytale in the Alps
Zermatt in the Swiss Alps, Europe: credit iStock
Picture craggy peaks blanketed in snow. Cobbled laneways flanked by centuries-old chalets. Light-festooned fir trees in quaint village squares. A white Christmas in the Alps waltzes straight out of a fairytale. Follow the lead of snow hounds around Europe and head for the hills to spend days tackling world-class ski slopes and nights negotiating world-famous après ski scenes. Warm the soul with raclette in the Swiss village of Zermatt beneath the kinked summit of Matterhorn; schuss with blue-bloods in the chic Austrian resort Lech; or take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of Megève in France, where falling snow muffles the jingle of harness bells.
3. Sing Auld Lang Syne in Auld Reekie
Hogamany Edinburgh: credit Visit Scotland
Edinburgh staves off the cold with one of the world’s biggest New Year’s festivals, Hogmanay. On the 30th, the Torchlight Procession cuts a blazing path through old town, accompanied by bagpipes and drums. On the 31st, the street party of a lifetime swallows the city. Let Mark Ronson croon you to midnight in Prince Street Gardens or join a Scottish ceilidh jig beneath Edinburgh Castle before the sky erupts with fireworks at 12am and thousands of revellers join a chorus of ‘Auld Lang Syne’. Next morning, join the hardy (or crazy) souls for the Loony Dook – this ritual dunking in the River Forth will shock the last of the whisky from your system.
4. Celebrate Hanukkah in New York
Visit Katz Delicatessan during Hannukah in New York City: Credit iStock
You’ll know the eight days of Hanukkah are well underway in the Big Apple when the aroma of freshly fried latkes (grated potato pancake) waft from Jewish delis. When the annual Jewish holiday rolls around, longstanding and modern delis alike serve up traditional treats to celebrate. For sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts) try Orwashers; order matzo ball soup from Mile End; or head to none other than Katz’s Deli, one of the city’s oldest and most iconic delis, for a brisket sandwich or to its Brooklyn outpost, which is known for dishing out free latkes throughout Hanukkah. Dig in.
5. Ring in the new year in New Zealand
Rhythm and Vines: Credit Tourism New Zealand
New Zealand long held the title of being the first country in the world to ring in the new year, that is, until Samoa jumped the international date line westward in 2011 and nabbed the title. The South Pacific island went from the last to the first country to welcome the sunrise on January 1st. But this hasn’t stopped the Kiwis from revelling as if they still had the honour. Gisborne, formerly the first city to welcome new year, continues to host 16-year-old Rhythm and Vines, a three-day international music festival. If you’re keen on seeing in the new dawn with acts like Alison Wonderland and Disclosure, head across the ditch and join the 21,000 punters as they party their way into 2020.