The average Christmas holiday tends to involve visiting relatives, or heading to wintery destinations for mulled wine and ice-skating. Destinations such as Bruges, New York and Munich seem to be popular festive choices; yet there are some places which, while unexpected, have particularly special Christmas connections. Why not consider adding them to your seasonal itinerary?
Church of St Nicholas by Yilmaz Evuenc
Antalya Province, Turkey:
Most of us know that Santa Claus was inspired by St Nicholas, but what many may not know is that Saint Nicholas was actually a Bishop from the ancient Greek city of Myra. He was a generous man, and in one famous tale, St Nicholas helped a poor man whose three daughters could not marry because he could not afford a dowry (a financial gift a wife brings to a marriage). Rather than shame the man with charity, St Nicholas went to his house at night and threw three purses of gold through his window. This may very well have sparked the tradition of Santa Claus coming down the chimney with bags of presents! Myra is now the Antalya Province in Turkey, and if you’re in the area over winter, why not visit the burial church of St Nicholas in Demre city, and pay your respects to the original Santa Claus? After all, it’s much easier to book Turkey hotels than trying to arrange a holiday to the North Pole!
The Vatican by Paolo
Let’s face it: it wouldn’t be Christmas without traditional carols. The very first seasonal carol was sung in Rome in AD129, when a Bishop called for an “Angel’s Hymn” to be sung at Christmas mass. As time went on, more composers would create new Christmas carols. These were mostly Latin hymns but they are still sung today, despite the popularity of more modern Christmas tunes. It’s definitely worth visiting Rome over the Christmas season, whether you want to hear the original carols at a local Christmas mass, or pay a visit to the Vatican to receive the Pope’s inaugural blessing.
Jerusalem, Israel (from Sharm el Sheikh):
A trip to Jerusalem, where Jesus is believed to have spent much of his life, might not seem an obvious choice of holiday destination, but it’s easier than you might think to get there. The best way is to take an excursion from Sharm el Sheikh, combining a contemporary holiday with a visit to the Holy City of Jerusalem. Several local tour companies will help you make the journey and they arrange transfers from most Sharm el Sheikh hotels. You’ll pass through the border town of Taba, head along the coast towards the Dead Sea and enjoy your first glimpse of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. From there you will visit Bethlehem: the birthplace of Jesus and the very setting of the nativity stories and plays we’re so familiar with.
Tallinn Town Hall Square by Marit Toomas Hinnosaar
Estonia is packed with history and culture, but its ties to Christmas might not be obvious at first. Yet Estonia’s town of Tallinn lays claim to the first ever Christmas tree on record. Back in 1441 a tree was erected in Tallinn Town Hall Square, which people would dance around in celebration before setting alight. Obviously, burning a tree in your living room is hardly convenient, so thankfully over time the custom has changed to decorating the tree with sparkly ornaments instead. If you want to visit Tallinn’s medieval Town Square in December you’ll find a festive Christmas market – and of course, a fully decorated Christmas tree.
At Hotels4U we can help you arrange your festive holidays; whether you want to stick with somewhere traditional or make new traditions somewhere you’ve never been before. Is there a particular destination which has special Christmas connections for you? Let us know!