Christmas Festivals Around the World

Learn about Christmas celebrations around the world.

By: Jeff Thoreson

From London to Budapest, the world's most memorable Christmas vacations include festivals that go way past crocheted Christmas stockings, homemade nativity scenes and eggnog, to showcase everything from breathtaking ice sculptures to high-speed roller coasters that give you and your family a ride even Santa Claus can't match.

Winter Wonderland

During the Christmas season, Hyde Park becomes Winter Wonderland as Londoners celebrate the holidays with one of the world’s biggest festivals. Last year more than two million visitors attended, and for good reason. Winter Wonderland has traditional Christmas festival elements: an ice rink, visits with Santa Claus, more holiday food than you could possibly sample and Christmas shopping. Plus, it also has two Christmas-themed Cirque du Soleil-style circuses by Zippos Circus, as well as two massive roller coasters, a 200-foot high enclosed-pod observation wheel, kids' rides and Santa Land.

Christmas Festival of Lights

Christmas festivals - Festival of Lights

Christmas festivals - Festival of Lights

Photo by: dolanh, flickr

dolanh, flickr

Portland, Ore., is probably not the first place you look to as a holiday destination, but the hundreds of thousands of people who attend the annual Christmas Festival of Lights at The Grotto would beg to differ. "We've been unable to find anything like it in the world, so we call it the world's largest choral festival," says Jane Tokito, development director for The Grotto. The Christmas festival showcases a spectacular lighting display with more than one million lights (which take seven weeks to hang).

Budapest Christmas Fair

Christmas festivals - Budapest Fair

Christmas festivals - Budapest Fair

Photo by: Top Budapest

Top Budapest

European capital cities have their own individual styles for celebrating the holiday, but few are quite as unique as Budapest. Between November and December, Vörösmarty Square turns into a festive celebration of traditional Hungarian Christmas practices. Hundreds of little wooden cottage stalls showcase unique holiday gifts, as the scent of honey cookies, mulled wine, cinnamon and fir permeate the air. Cultural programs and Hungarian folk music help visitors understand the Christmas traditions in Budapest.

Santa Claus Christmas Celebration

Christmas festivals - Santa Christmas Celebration

Christmas festivals - Santa Christmas Celebration

Photo by: Spencer County Visitors Bureau

Spencer County Visitors Bureau

Everyone's holiday season should include a visit to Santa Claus, Ind. "America's Christmas Hometown" celebrates the holiday with its three-week Santa Claus Christmas Celebration. At the festival you can drive the 1.2-mile Family Christmas Light Adventure along Lake Rudolph, discover the "Shining Story of Rudolph" and even roast chestnuts over an open fire at Santa's Candy Castle. Shopping and dining are aplenty, and for a unique twist on the Christmas spirit, you can stay at Santa's Lodge.

Santa's Enchanted Forest

Christmas festivals - Santas Enchanted Forest

Christmas festivals - Santas Enchanted Forest

Photo by: Bob B. Brown, flickr

Bob B. Brown, flickr

Some may find it hard to get into the Christmas spirit in a subtropical place like Miami, but Santa's Enchanted Forest helps. The Christmas theme park offers visitors about 10 thrill rides, more than a dozen family and kiddie rides, plus shows that include alligator wrestling and trained white Bengal tigers and sea lions. So what if everyone is dressed in T-shirts and shorts? It's still a Christmas festival.

Christmas in Ice

Christmas festivals - Christmas in Ice

Christmas festivals - Christmas in Ice

Photo by: Vicky Padgett

Vicky Padgett

Experience a slightly different take on the Christmas festival in the town of North Pole, Alaska. The city 14 miles south of Fairbanks, trucks in about 2.2 million pounds of ice, which talented sculptors then turn into amazing works of art. When the ice chips stop flying, the Christmas in Ice festival is a forest of beautifully lit, intricately carved Christmas ice sculptures. In North Pole, one thing sponsors don't have to worry about is a warm spell ruining the festival.

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