Broaden your horizons with these eight great holiday destinations, writes Dorothy Veitch
1 Rovaniemi, Finland
Legend has it that Santa Claus lives in the North Pole but, as any Finn will tell you, Rovaniemi, just north of the Arctic Circle, is his true Christmas HQ. In this tiny village, nestled deep in Lapland’s reindeer-dotted forests, the kids can visit Santa’s post offi ce (manned by elves), and then spend time with Mrs Claus making gingerbread cookies and writing their wish lists.
2 Shymbulak, Kazakhstan
Hoping to see Santa Claus on skis? Then head to Shymbulak, the largest ski resort in Central Asia. Just 25 kilometres from Almaty, it’s not too remote, and it’s well set up having hosted the 2011 Asian Winter Olympics. The ski areas span over 920 metres of vertical drop and nearly 13 kilometres of ski runs. There are three ski lifts, with the highest taking you 3,200 metres above sea level. You can rent skis, snowboards and even sleighs (for added Christmas jingle).
3 New York City, USA
If you’re a fan of romantic comedies – like Miracle on 34th Street (1947), When Harry Met Sally (1989) and Serendipity (2001) – you already know that a New York Christmas is hard to beat. There’s skating at the Rockefeller Center under the Big Apple’s biggest Christmas tree, the annual Christmas Spectacular at Radio City, and, of course, shopping on Fifth Avenue.
4 Nuremberg, Germany
A world away from the commercialised glitz of a Hong Kong mall, Christmas shopping is still a magical experience at Nuremberg Christmas Market. The 200 vendors sell traditional handmade toys and holiday goods only (no plastic holly), and you can treat yourself to cookies and mulled wine as you shop. Nuremberg is all about nostalgia for Christmases past, so there’s also an old-fashioned fun fair right by the market, complete with a Ferris wheel, carousel and steam train.
2019 saw The Lion City marking its bicentennial – 200 years since its founding – and this month is your last chance to enjoy a couple of celebratory historical talks, tours, workshops and shows. But if it’s snow you’re after, you can find that too. It falls at Christmas Wonderland in Gardens by the Bay; Universal Studios, Singapore; The Rink at JCube and on Tanglin Road, right outside Tanglin Mall.
Christmas has become a global festival, irrespective of religion or location, but if you’re a Christian, the best place to experience it is in Jesus’ birthplace. On December 24, there’s enough (spiritual) energy on Manger Square to light candles for everyone, and as the clock strikes 12am, you can drop by the Church of the Nativity for Midnight Mass.
7 Phú Quoc, Vietnam
What the balmy island of Phú Quốc lacks in snow, it more than makes up for in glorious, white-sand beaches, with Sao Beach on the south-eastern coast purportedly the whitest of all. Here, you can sip your yuletide spirit out of a coconut shell, and celebrate with all the other ‘Christmas orphans.’
8 Tokyo, Japan
Christmas in Tokyo is a neon-lit over-the-top joy to behold. While no one gets time off and Christ really doesn’t come into the equation, the Japanese have gone a bundle on Christmas kitsch. In downtown Tokyo, there are grinches and elves on every street corner, and fairy lights everywhere you look. If you head out to a bar or izakaya, be sure to dress appropriately — wear your reindeer horns. Meri Kurisumasu!