Christmas Around the World

From Finland's Santa Claus Village to Australia's Bondi Beach party, see how other countries celebrate Christmas.

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Santa Comes to Town

Santa Comes to Town

Every year the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade ends with Santa coming to a stop in front of the department store on 6th Ave, marking the beginning of the Christmas season in the Big Apple. Come explore some of the timeless traditions of Christmas in New York City. 960 1280

Eric Liebowitz / NBC / NBC NewsWire / Getty Images  

Wollman Rink in Central Park

Wollman Rink in Central Park

Make the best of New York City's cold weather and enjoy ice skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park (on the east side between 62nd and 63rd Streets). 960 1280

Miguel Sanz / Moment Open / Getty Images  

Empire State Building

Empire State Building

At the center of the iconic NYC skyline sits the Empire State Building. During the months of November and December, the top of the building is lit up with red and green lights to celebrate christmas. The first lighting each year coincides with the opening night for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. 960 1280

Stuart Monk / iStock / Getty Images Plus  

The Rockettes

The Rockettes

Speaking of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, don’t miss out on seeing the Rockettes’ show-stopping leg kick precision chorus line 5 days a week during the holidays at Radio City Music Hall.

 

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Mike Pont / WireImage / Getty Images  

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Started in 1933, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has become a timeless tradition for New Yorkers and tourists alike. The tree is on average between 69 and 100 feet tall, and its lighting ceremony is accompanied with a live broadcast in early December. 960 1280

Rob Young from United Kingdom (Christmas @ Rockefeller Plaza) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

5th Avenue Holiday Window Displays

5th Avenue Holiday Window Displays

Shopping in NYC during the holidays can be a nightmare due to the tourist-packed streets. But there is definitely a redeeming quality to making the trek into the crowds: holiday window displays! Every year in mid-November, the biggest department stores in New York City create one-of-a-kind presentations of holiday-cheer in their exterior windows, usually with an original theme or throw-back to years past. (Shown here: one of Macy's Herald Square 2014 holiday window displays). 960 1280

Ben Hider / Getty Images  

Gigantic Holiday Cheer

Gigantic Holiday Cheer

Giant ornaments are displayed annually during the holidays at different locations in NYC, including Rockefeller Center (across the street from Radio City Music Hall) on 6th Avenue. 960 1280

Roff Bruderer / Blend Images / Getty Images  

Union Square Holiday Market

Union Square Holiday Market

Open yearly from mid-November to Christmas Eve, the Union Square Holiday Market is the perfect place to get unique handmade gifts for everyone on your list. 960 1280
Sledding in the City

Sledding in the City

If weather trends stay on course for New York City, you'll want to prepare yourself for some major snow this holiday season. Take advantage of the wintery weather and join the fun at any of the dozen local parks for some sledding! Prospect Park in Brooklyn (pictured here) or Central Park in Manhattan are classic locations to enjoy some slip-sliding fun. 960 1280

Spencer Platt / Getty Images  

Dyker Heights Holiday Lights

Dyker Heights Holiday Lights

For a look at what happens in the boroughs during the holidays, take a trip to Dyker Heights in Brooklyn and tour their annual holiday decorations. The residents won’t label it a competition, but it’s hard not to see it that way when each new year brings bigger and brighter displays. 960 1280
PNC Festival of Lights at Cincinnati Zoo

PNC Festival of Lights at Cincinnati Zoo

Strolling entertainment awaits visitors to Cincinnati Zoo's Festival of Lights, who will also be privy to a "Wild Lights" show at Swan Lake and a black-light puppet show. It's possible to see the lights from aboard the North Polar Express Train, and pay a visit with Santa -- and Mrs. Claus. 960 1280

  

Wildlights at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Wildlights at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

More than 3 million lights spread holiday cheer to adults and children at the Wildlights celebration. Kids can decorate cookies with Mrs. Claus and get photos with Santa; it's even possible to take a camel ride or whirl around an ice skating rink. 960 1280

Grahm S. Jones  

Zoo Lights 2015 at Denver Zoo

Zoo Lights 2015 at Denver Zoo

The Denver Zoo's holiday light safari leads visitors through 38 acres of dazzling light displays, including more than 150 animal sculptures that leap across lawns, dangle from trees and appear in the most unexpected places. You'll even hear holiday songs from children's and handbell choirs. 960 1280

  

Zoo Lights at Utah's Hogle Zoo

Zoo Lights at Utah's Hogle Zoo

You'll feel festive amidst the 250 illuminated sculptures and displays at Utah's Hogle Zoo. Walk through the 135-foot twinkling tunnel while wearing hologram glasses before riding the carousel or telling Santa what you'd like for Christmas at Santa Station -- with real, live reindeer. 960 1280

  

Lights Before Christmas at Toledo Zoo

Lights Before Christmas at Toledo Zoo

Millions of lights deck the halls -- and trees and lawns -- at the Toledo Zoo, included a dancing lights display near Cheetah Valley. The celebration is marked by carolers, live reindeer, and a glowing ice slide, as well as a buffet-style Festive Feast in The Lodge. 960 1280

  

Houston Zoo Lights

Houston Zoo Lights

Millions of holiday lights are draped in displays throughout the Houston Zoo, and visitors can experience the world from inside a life-size snow globe or stroll through the illuminated African Forest past enormous glowing ornaments. Carolers sing nightly at the Reflecting Pool stage. 960 1280

  

Los Angeles Zoo Lights

Los Angeles Zoo Lights

Those aren't the flashes of LA's paparazzi cameras -- its simply LA's Zoo Lights, designed by Bionic League, who have created light shows for Daft Punk and Kanye West (only in LA, right?). The park fills with LED-sculptures and lasers that visitors can see on a 90-minute self-guided tour. 960 1280

  

SunTrust Zoo Lights at Memphis Zoo

SunTrust Zoo Lights at Memphis Zoo

There's guaranteed to be "snow" at the Memphis Zoo's holiday display; folks looking to see the white stuff can visit Snow Alley, or take a stroll past twinkling light displays to meet Santa in his shop, and even get a peek at his helpful reindeer friends. There's even a Zoo on Ice performance. 960 1280

DONNY_GRANGER  

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

More than 2 million lights dazzle ZooLights visitors at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, and the zoo has made the event an extravaganza beyond the twinkling lumens. Visitors can take a spin around the park's ice skating rink, snap photos with Santa, and watch "arctic artists" carve ice sculptures. 960 1280

Todd Rosenberg  

ZooLights at Oregon Zoo

ZooLights at Oregon Zoo

Ride through the Oregon Zoo in twinkling style aboard the ZooLights train, past more than a million sparkling lights. You'll see tunnels of light near the African Rainforest and can warm up with hot chocolate and the zoo's signature elephant ear treats from vendors along the ZooLights path. 960 1280

  

Zoolights at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

Zoolights at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

Zoolights at Point Defiance bedazzle the Pacific Northwest with more than 500,000 LED lights and animal-themed displays, including a 3-D light display of an entire polar bear family. Visitors can take spin on the zoo'z antique carousel and see scuba diving Santa at the aquarium. 960 1280

  

ZooLights at National Zoo

ZooLights at National Zoo

Visitors to the National Zoo will feel the electrified as more than 500,000 environmentally friendly LED lights fill the park with a sparkly glow. You can warm up with hot chocolate or watch the nightly live performances, while little ones can take a spin on 150-foot-long "snow tubing" tracks. 960 1280

JAMES D JENKINS  

Jungle Bells at San Diego Zoo

Jungle Bells at San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo transforms into a Winter Wonderland, and you can admire the lighted animal sculptures while riding the Twinkle Light Trolley through the zoo. You'll hear Dr. Zoolittle's version of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," hear carolers  sing and gape at Toy Shop Hop acrobats. 960 1280

Photo: Ken Bohn  

ZooLights at Phoenix Zoo

ZooLights at Phoenix Zoo

Feel the glow at the Phoenix Zoo's celebration of nearly 4 million lights, where in addition to the glowing displays, visitors can also experience The Polar Express in 4-D, with special effects like snow and fog. Ice sculptors carve a 300-lb. block of ice and the zoo even has camel and wagon rides. 960 1280

  

Wild Lights at St. Louis Zoo

Wild Lights at St. Louis Zoo

The St. Louis Zoo comes to life after dark with animated Wild Lights displays like the Arctic Wonderland, Swan Lake and fantasy butterfly garden illuminating the property. Storytellers like Tundra Tom spin tales around a fire as visitors stay warming sipping hot cocoa. 960 1280

  

Sufganiyot (Israel)

Sufganiyot (Israel)

It’s not uncommon for Jewish people to eat fried food for Hanukkah to celebrate the miracle of oil, which refers to the oil in a lamp in an ancient temple lasting 8 days when there was only enough in the lamp for 1 day. Potato pancakes (latkes) are usually a common staple at the beginning of dinner, but sufganiyots (pictured) – jelly- or custard-filled doughnuts – are the most popular food eaten in Israel during this religious holiday. 960 1280

David Silverman / Getty Images  

Mince Pies (England)

Mince Pies (England)

Christmas dinner in the UK is similar to a typical Thanksgiving meal in US, which is usually comprised of roast turkey or duck with cranberry sauce, served with potatoes and vegetables. In addition to Christmas pudding, mince pie (pictured) is another popular food in the UK. This holiday treat is filled with minced meat, raw beef or mutton fat, fruits and spices. 960 1280

Donald Lain Smith/ Moment/ Getty Images  

Panettone (Italy)

Panettone (Italy)

In Southern Italians and Italian Americans celebrate the holidays by eating fish and other seafood for the Feast of the Seven Fishes. However, panettone, is a popular sweet bread loaf that contains raisins, citron, lemon peel shavings and candied orange. It is usually served with a hot drink, sweet wine or crema di mascarpone during Christmas and New Year’s Day. 960 1280

Vincenzo Lombardo / Getty Images  

Tamales (Mexico)

Tamales (Mexico)

With Aztec and Maya origins as early as 8000 to 5000 BC, tamales are a popular food eaten in Mexico during the holidays – sometimes replacing traditional turkey or bacalao. This delicious holiday treat – filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables and chilies – is usually wrapped in corn husks or plantain leaves and steamed to perfection. 960 1280

Karin Dreyer/ Blend Images/ Getty Images  

Bûche de Noël (France)

Bûche de Noël (France)

Looking for something sweet in France? Don’t miss out on tasting the bûche de noël! This traditional dessert is a frosted sponge cake filled with chocolate buttercream or other flavored fillings. The cake resembles a yule log. In the medieval era, families would gather and throw a yule log on a fire at the end of December to welcome the Winter Solstice. The ashes were saved for good luck.  960 1280

Junghee Choi/ E+/ Getty Images  

Melomakarona (Greece)

Melomakarona (Greece)

Pork, egg-lemon chicken and rice soup, christopsomo, baklava and yaprakia are few traditional Greek food and dishes eaten during the holidays. Top it all off with melomakarona cookies made with cinnamon, cloves and orange. After they come out of the oven, the baked goods are dipped in spiced syrup and sprinkled with nuts. 960 1280

Steve Outram / Getty Images  

Babka (Poland)

Babka (Poland)

The first star seen starts the big Christmas Eve feast in Poland. Twelve dishes, usually a variety of fish and vegetables, are served as a reminder of the 12 Apostles. Beetroot soup, carp, pickled herring, potato dumplings and cabbage rolls are a few dishes served. Don’t eat too much and save space in your stomach for some delicious babka or cake. 960 1280

Boston Globe / Getty Images  

Kentucky Fried Chicken (Japan)

Kentucky Fried Chicken (Japan)

It’s not uncommon to see a crowd at the local KFC during the holidays in Japan. Why? Because it’s usually the popular food choice for Christmas dinner since turkey is nonexistent in the country. Japanese patrons have been known to place their KFC order 2 months in advance. So plan ahead and place your order early if plan on celebrating a Christmas like the locals. 960 1280

David Silverman/ Getty Images  

Saffron Buns (Sweden)

Saffron Buns (Sweden)

Swedish meatballs, Christmas ham, sweet and sour red cabbage, mulled wine, sliced beet root and an assortment of other goodies are traditional holiday food in Sweden. Don’t forget to add a basket of saffron buns – spiced sweet buns flavored with saffron, cinnamon or nutmeg. 960 1280

Rhoberazzi/ E+/ Getty Images  

Kutia (Ukraine)

Kutia (Ukraine)

Start your 12-dish meal on Christmas Eve in the Ukraine with kutia, a sweet grain pudding made with wheat berries, poppy seeds, raisins, honey or sugar and milk or cream. 960 1280

Izakorwel/ iStock/ Getty Images  

Christstollen (Germany)

Christstollen (Germany)

Taste christstollen, the German version of fruit cake eaten during the Christmas season. The traditional German cake is filled several ingredients such as almonds, cinnamon, dried fruit and marzipan. 960 1280

A.&F. Michler/ Photolibrary/ Getty Images  

Spiced Hot Chocolate (Peru)

Spiced Hot Chocolate (Peru)

Add chili to sweet hot chocolate and you’ve just made a traditional holiday drink in Peru. Spiced hot chocolate, served with panettone (traditional Italian bread), is usually given to the poor or less fortunate leading up to Christmas. Similar to Mexico, Peruvians holiday staples include tamales and roast turkey. 960 1280

Bhofack2/ iStock/ Getty Images  

Stroopwafels (Holland)

Stroopwafels (Holland)

These deliciously thin treats are a traditional dessert in Holland. Stroopwafels’ or syrup waffles’ main ingredients are butter, brown sugar, syrup and cinnamon. Try ginger nuts, Dutch Christmas bread and bishop’s wine if you’re looking for other traditional food and drink to sample in Holland or the Netherlands during the holidays. 960 1280

Dima P/ iStock/ Getty Images  

Kimchi (South Korea)

Kimchi (South Korea)

Don’t stay in … take your significant other out for a romantic dinner at a restaurant if you’re in South Korea. It’s normal for families to go out for Christmas dinner and attend holiday-themed events at local venues and theme parks. Kimchi is a year-round staple for families dining in for the holiday. After all, it is Korea’s national dish. 960 1280

Jukree/ iStock/ Getty Images  

Egg Nog (US)

Egg Nog (US)

Turkey, apple cider, candy canes, Christmas cookies, gingerbread, fruitcake are typical traditional foods served during the holidays in the US. But eggnog – made with milk, cream, sugar and whipped eggs – is a popular holiday treat, too. Add brandy, rum or bourbon to warm cold spirits and garnish with cinnamon or nutmeg for a decorative touch. 960 1280

Lauri Patterson/ E+/ Getty Images  

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