One of the best ways to get into the festive spirit at this time of year, especially in Europe, is to visit one of the many Christmas markets that pop up on town squares across the continent. However, this is not the only way to indulge in a bit of Christmas cheer, as there are plenty of other events happening all over the world that you can enjoy.
From Guatemala to the Philippines, people have their local customs and festive occasions that bring people together from far and wide. Here are just a few.
Lantern Festivals, Philippines
One of the biggest traditions in this part of the world is making elaborate, colourful lanterns and then parading them through the streets. Towns and cities all over the Philippines have their own version of this event, including Manila, Naga City and San Fernando – a city that has earnt the nickname ‘Christmas Capital of the Philippines’. Amazing creativity and intricate design are on display as lanterns measuring around 20 feet are displayed amongst a carnival atmosphere. Prizes are often given out for the best uses of colour and originality.
Nordic countries are known for their love of books (think Norwegians and crime novels), but Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country. Much of that is down to this Christmastime event which translates to mean ‘The Christmas Book Flood’. Jolabokaflod starts to hot up towards the end of the year when a publication called Bókatíðindi (Book News) is delivered to every house for free. This details all of the books that have been newly published and Icelanders begin to choose their favourites.
Then, on Christmas Eve, friends and families gift the books to each other and spend the evening reading them. If you visit Reykjavik at this time of year, you’ll likely see authors reading excerpts from their latest novel in bookshops and libraries, creating a literary frenzy that sweeps across the land.
Ice Sculpture Festival, Bruges
Inside one giant ice palace, kept cold by energy generated by hundreds of solar panels, you’ll find the world’s first digital ice museum. Sculptors from Russia, Poland, Hungary and beyond proudly display 80 ice sculptures at this interactive and innovative event in the centre of Bruges. As well as this, projections are cast onto 3,000 blocks of ice to create a multimedia exhibition that also makes use of a giant LED wall. The festival started on November 24th 2018 and is a great additional highlight for anyone visiting the Bruges Christmas market.
La Quema del Diablo, Guatemala
Meaning ‘The Burning of the Devil’, Guatemala’s La Quema del Diablo is probably not the most festive event you can choose to attend during the Christmas period. However, it does serve to cleanse the country of evil spirits in time for the Feast of Mary and to put pay to all the bad things that have happened during the year to make way for the new. On the 7th December, at 6pm, Guatemalans gather in cities around the country to douse an effigy of the Devil in gasoline and then set fire to it. Firecrackers are usually added to the pyre too, as onlookers cheer and applaud El Diablo’s demise.
In the run-up to this event, shops and market stalls also sell papier-mâché models so that people can hold their own Burning of the Devil ceremony outside their house. This is how the tradition first started and locals will usually add any unwanted possessions or reminders of their sins to the flames.
Natal Luz, Gramado, Brazil
Every year, around two million people flock to the small town of Gramado, just outside of Porto Alegre, to experience the true magic of Christmas. From the end of October until the Middle of January, a whole host of events take place around the town, bringing the local hotels to 95% capacity for a sustained period. A key part of the region’s tourism, the Christmas extravaganza known as Natal Luz (Christmas Lights) features an amazing parade, various elaborate shows, a Christmas village and musical performances to ensure that nobody leaves without a renewed festive spirit in their heart. It’s no surprise that Gramado is known as the Christmas capital of Brazil.
If you would like to increase your Yuletide cheer before Christmas, the team at TravelQuest can help you plan a last-minute getaway. Call us on 0800 021 3237 or visit our travel agents in Ipswich or Woodbridge.