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Christmas Around the World

Whether you’re already wrapped up warm by a European fireplace, clinking flutes in Asia’s Indian summer, or bikini-clad in LA’s year-round sunshine, there’s an undeniably Christmassy buzz in the air. From glühwein-soaked holiday markets in Tokyo and Berlin to LA‘s festive singalongs and London’s enchanted garden, here’s our round-up of festive thrills happening in a city somewhere near(ish) you…

New York

Iconic crowd-pleaser The Rockefeller Center pulls out all the stops every year with a grand glittering tree and the prettiest ice rink you ever did see. This glide n’ slide sanctum is arguably New York’s most iconic festive foray, with a snowfall of events and skating packages to entice even the most seasoned scrooge. Lace up and let loose.

Los Angeles

If LA Philharmonic’s Deck the Hall doesn’t succeed in getting you into the festive spirit, then there’s little else that will. The self-proclaimed “holliest, jolliest way to spend the holidays” runs 19-23 Dec, with a series of concerts spanning Arturo Sandoval and his Big Band’s Swinging Christmas to the traditional Holiday Sing-a-Long. Welcome in 2019 with eclectic orchestra-band Pink Martini on New Year’s Eve. Ho, ho, ho!


German culture remains an important ingredient in the Chi-town melting pot. Unsurprising, then that the C.16th Nuremberg-inspired Christkindlmarket (until 24 Dec) is the most fêted market in town. This festive institution pulls in thousands of merrymakers with its hand-rendered artisan wares, from scented candles, lace, silver jewellery, and Bavarian glass ornaments to wooden toys, teddy bears and nativity scenes. There’s also live music, kids’ activities, and an edible/gluggable array of German goodies like donuts, bratwurst, mulled wine and wheat beer to keep you toasty. Prost!

Hong Kong

Light festivals are a hallmark of cities as diverse as Amsterdam to Singapore, and this year the Fragrant Harbour sparks up with the first-ever Hong Kong Pulse Light Festival. The city’s Tamar Park and Central Harbourfront are host to a dazzling lineup of 18 light installations by creative talents both local and global; standouts are Hungarian artist Victor Vicsek’s ‘Talking Heads’, and X-Tree, a futuristic upgrade to your traditional pine, which performs on cue every 20 minutes.


While the hordes head to shop, sip and sup at Tokyo’s mammoth Hibiya Park Christmas Market (14-25 Dec), Yebisu Garden Place (until 25 Dec) is a smaller but perfectly formed French-style marché, albeit one with a no-holds-barred display of festive lights and gigantic Baccarat chandelier. While the vibe is Gallic, with stalls serving delicious treats like gateaux and chocolat chaud, the crafty items on sale veer more made-in-Japan; think Kowaii puppets and imabari cotton towels. There’s even an ice-skating rink to ward off those winter chills!


Home to the motherlode of Christmas markets, Berlin’s most enchanting of all is the pic-perfect Weihnachtsmarkt Schloss Charlottenburg (until 26 Dec). Set against the dazzling, illuminated C.17th Charlottenburg Palace, rows of snow-capped wooden stalls sell kitsch-traddy tchotchkes, winter-warming glühwein, roasted chestnuts, marzipan sweets and more. Tots in tow? Whisk them off to the neighbouring Orangerie garden for a Ferris wheel, train rides and carousel.


Admittedly Kew is fair old schlep from central London, but it’s worth braving the train ride for the winter wonderland that is Kew Gardens. Come nightfall the famous patch of green is transformed into a twinkly enchanted garden by over million lights and thousands of laser beams; skip along the winter trail leading you through atmospherically illuminated woods, past a crackling fire garden and ending up with a dancing light performance on Palm House Pond – bravo! Tickets are selling out faster than Rudolph can get Blitzened, so get booking quicksticks. 

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