Although it is off-season for many destinations, planning a vacation in December or January allows travelers to experience one of the many winter holidays celebrated around the world. This immersion and participation in holiday cultural festivities offers a special glimpse into a destination’s people, history, and traditions. When traveling isn’t possible, learning about holiday celebrations around the world and incorporating cultural touches into your own traditions is a wonderful way to celebrate a passion for exploring the world.
During the four weeks of advent leading to Christmas, cities throughout Europe erupt with colorful and festive Christmas markets. Held in the town square, locals and visitors can meander the open-air stalls to shop for gifts, munch on tasty snacks like candied, toasted almonds (gebrannte mandeln) and gingerbread (lebkuchen and magenbrot) and drink steaming mugs of mulled wine. Live music and dancing accompany the eating and shopping.
This mulled wine, Glühwein, is the Christmas beverage of Germany. Prepared with red wine and spices including cinnamon, star anise, and cloves, the hot and comforting beverage is the perfect antidote for the chilly air. Prepare a simmering spiced batch of the mulled wine and let the soothing scents waft through the home.
In Mexico, Christmas is celebrated from December 12 through January 6, beginning with the first of las posadas, or Christmas processionals. These processionals honor the journey of Mary and Joseph, and homes’ exteriors are decorated with evergreens, moss, and paper lanterns to view on the ceremonial walk. Each posada ends with house parties featuring food, games, fireworks, and piñatas.
On January 6, families in Mexico gather for Día de los Reyes, sip a hot beverage similar to hot cocoa (atole), and eat Rosca de Reyes, a sweet bread topped with candied fruit and a figure of baby Jesus baked inside. (Whoever finds the baby Jesus is supposed to host the party on February 2 for Día de la Candelaria!)
In Greece, decorating boats to honor sailors returning home from sea voyages has been a longstanding tradition. Every December in Aristotelous Square in the city of Thessaloniki, large Christmas trees and a three-masted ship are displayed, drawing locals and tourists alike. Other cities around Greece also display large ships with festive lights, and homes around the country feature both decorated boats and trees.
Christopsomo (Christ’s bread) is a round sweet bread flavored with orange, cinnamon, and cloves and decorated with a cross made of dough. It is prepared on Christmas Eve and eaten on Christmas Day.
UNITED STATES, SOME CARIBBEAN ISLANDS - KWANZAA
In 1966, a professor of Africana Studies at California State University Long Beach created Kwanzaa to draw from the traditional Southern African first-fruits celebration and celebrate family and social values. From December 26 to January 1, each day is dedicated to one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Families gather each day to light a candle and discuss the day’s principle. A large celebratory feast is eaten on the final evening.
The final night of the year, Omisoka, leads into the most important holiday in Japanese culture: New Year’s Day. On Omisoka, families spend time thoroughly cleaning their homes, bathing, and then gathering to eat bowls of toshikoshi soba or udon noodles, whose long length represents crossing from one year to the next. At midnight, people visit shrines and temples for Hatsumode, the first temple or shrine visit of the year. The Shinto shrines distribute amazake, a sweet, fermented rice beverage, and the Buddhist temples ring their bells 108 times to represent casting away the 108 causes of human suffering.
Royal Caribbean has earned a reputation in the cruise industry for incredible vacations at sea thanks to a commitment to innovative creative ventures accompanied by a constant reimagining and redefining of the cruise experience. Royal Caribbean has upped the wow factor yet again, bewitching excited cruisers and breaking single day sales records with the all-new, incredibly dazzling Icon of the Seas ℠.
A Royal Caribbean ship has never been bigger or bolder than this towering new addition to the line’s fleet, the massive Icon of the Seas ℠. So, what makes this ship a standout on the horizon?
WONDERFUL WATER FUN
Royal Caribbean has always ensured plenty of places to splash on board, but the largest ship in the fleet promises larger than life water play for all ages.
When Royal Caribbean introduced the neighborhood concept on the Oasis Class, passengers loved the unique atmosphere and amenities each area provided. On Icon of the Seas℠, new neighborhoods and accommodations are making their debut.
A FRESH (THRILLING!) PERSPECTIVE
Endless onboard entertainment has always been a hallmark of Royal Caribbean cruise, but a new activity is sure to send passengers over the edge...literally!
For a cruise vacation sure to please all members of the family, Icon of the Seas℠ promises plenty of thrills and chills so you can get your fill of fun.
Cross posting this blog from my friends at KHM.
Endless buffets and 24/7 dining has always been a draw for cruisers. But the rise and demand from foodies has inspired new dining programs, culinary-inspired itineraries and gourmet experiences on almost every commercial cruise line.
These ships and sailings offer even the most discerning food and drink fanatics something to relish, on board and off.
Celebrity Cruises Culinary Escapes
The line that brought cruisers the “Top Chef at Sea” program continues to wow guests with its gastronomic experiences. The Culinary Escape itinerary, launching in September 2016 features chef-inspired food and drink on board, along with the diverse dining opportunities found in the Mediterranean and Adriatic ports-of-call.
Along with a behind-the-scenes tour of the Celebrity culinary operation, guests get to enjoy several tasting events, a four-course luncheon and a Sommelier’s tour of the ship’s extensive wine selection.
Uniworld Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong
Travelers intrigued by Asia’s culinary delights will find much to savor on this 15-day journey from the vibrant Ho Chi Minh City to historic Hanoi. Traveling through Vietnam and Cambodia on the Orchid, guests will find themselves absorbed in the spices, seafood, and other local edible favorites that connect cuisine with culture.
From the first toast at a treasured local restaurant, to tours of local candy-making shops and fish farms, a cruise on the Orchid highlights the exotic flavors of the region.
Oceania Cruises Culinary Discovery Tours
In 2015, Oceania was named the best cruise line for foodies by both Foder’s and Berlitz, and is widely considered the most food-oriented cruise line today. It’s Culinary Discovery Tours immerse travelers in the local cuisine, with chef-accompanied foraging trips, market tours, farm-to-table meals, and cooking lessons.
Oceania also established the first hands-on cooking school at sea, on the Marina and the Riviera which take place in state-of-the-art kitchens and are led by world-renown chefs. With the legendary Jacques Pepin heading up their culinary program, cruisers can expect an absolutely stunning gourmet experience.
AmaWaterways Wine Cruises
Is there anything more enticing than a meandering cruise through Europe’s wine regions? AmaWaterway’s themed itineraries showcase the celebrated wine regions along the Danube, Douro, Mosel, Rhine, Rhone and Seine rivers. Guests will find themselves in the company of award-winning vintners from generations of wine-making families on each cruise.
The cruise line coordinators visit such esteemed wineries as Châteanueuf-du-Pape, Saint-Emilion, Sauternes, Medoc and Margaux. Onboard wine lectures and tastings are accented by optional excursions to olive farms, truffle farms and to the Cognac region, where passengers can blend their own brandy.
Windstar James Beard Foundation Cruises
This collection of itineraries from the luxury line Windstar seeks to bring foodies closer to the cuisine of a region, through the perspective of a James Beard Foundation-selected chef. A wine expert joins the host chef onboard to educate and entertain guests with daily wine tastings.
The upcoming August itinerary will sail from Dublin to Lisbon, stopping in ports in France, Spain and Portugal. Along the route, guests can explore and savor visits to an oyster farm in Brittany, the Hennessy Cognac cellar, a traditional Asturian cider factory, and several famed vineyards.
When the days get shorter and we see the first snowflake fall, we know one thing: winter is officially here. For some of us, this means dreading slushy streets or the stress-filled hustle and bustle of the season, but it also brings time-honored traditions and beloved holidays.
It is a time for celebration, for being with your loved ones, for making life-long memories, and of course, for travel.
Cities across the globe illuminate their skylines as they celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the winter solstice. Here are some of the most breathtaking destinations to celebrate the holiday nearest and dearest to you.
NEW YORK CITY
The city that never sleeps doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to winter festivities. If you celebrate Christmas, you’ll surely love the amazing display at Rockefeller Center and the annual Christmas Spectacular at nearby Radio City. Or take a stroll down Fifth Avenue to see the famous window displays and even do some holiday shopping.
New York is also a premiere destination to celebrate Hanukkah with one of the world’s largest menorahs in the Grand Army Plaza (Manhattan and Brooklyn) lit nightly. The celebration includes music and latkes each night at the Brooklyn location.
Kwanzaa, a celebration of African-American heritage, is also celebrated in New York City. The American Museum of Natural History hosts a celebration with traditional African performances and crafts. Harlem’s famous Apollo Theater, a bucket-list destination in itself, hosts family-friendly activities with dancing and music.
The city of Bath during Christmas will transport you to the time of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. From the famous Bath Christmas Market with homemade crafts to lacing up your skates at Bath on Ice, this trip would melt even Scrooge’s heart.
Journey to London for a Hanukkah you’ll never forget. People gather at Trafalgar Square to watch menorah lightings, taste delicious food, and listen to local music performances. Many local Jewish groups also host their own events, so there is no shortage of ways to celebrate.
You have undoubtedly heard of one of England’s most famous landmarks, Stonehenge, but did you know people from all over the world come to this prehistoric monument to celebrate the winter solstice? People gather to watch the sunrise as they play music, dance, do yoga and even kiss the famous stones.
The city of Old Quebec transforms into a quaint Christmas village in December. Seasonal décor adorns the stone buildings, and the smell of roasted chestnuts from the German Christmas Market fills the air.
To fill your winter with wonder and experience these destinations and more during the holiday season, contact Matt Travel!
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