HRISTMAS can inspire extreme reactions. Some people love everything about the festive season – tinsel on trees, feasts and food comas, baubles and bonbons. Others go out of their way to avoid the fuss. Here are Christmas travel suggestions for both.
Christmas, with trimmings
The good folk of Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland and Santa Claus’s official home town, celebrate Christmas every day. Fly 80 minutes from Helsinki, then travel by car, reindeer-drawn sleigh or snowmobile to Santa Claus Village on the Arctic Circle north of the city to meet Santa in his office and send postcards from the Santa Claus post office.
At neighbouring Santa Claus Holiday Village, a permanent exhibition covers traditional and modern Christmas customs from Finland and around the world. Book a Santa Claus accommodation package and St Nick will personally deliver gifts to your cabin. From December 1 to January 10, children in the gingerbread club enjoy elf school, sled trips and baking. Nearby Snowman World is open until March 31. Stay in an igloo or ride the snowy slopes. Grown-ups who stay up late could also spot the northern lights between late August and April. visitrovaniemi.fi, santaclausvillage.info, santaclausholidayvillage.fi, snowmanworld.fi
Come all ye faithful
Make a pilgrimage to the Vatican to hear Pope Francis. On Christmas Eve, His Holiness delivers a papal mass in St Peter’s Basilica, a Renaissance masterpiece and among the world’s largest churches. Tickets (free) are required to attend the liturgical celebration. On Christmas Day at noon, the Pope delivers his traditional Christmas message – the Urbi et Orbi benediction – to the faithful gathered below in St Peter’s Square. Last year, he wished for peace in conflict zones including Syria. w2.vatican.va
J Mountain to see the lights of Whistler until March 31. aspenchamber.org, wheeleroperahouse.com, whistlerblackcomb.com
Inhale the aroma of gingerbread, listen to carols sung with gusto and warm your hands around mugs of cinnamon-scented gluhwein while inspecting the illuminated stalls of a traditional European Christmas market.
At Berlin’s Charlottenburg Palace, the market contrasts against the imposing Baroque architecture. Buy tree decorations or devour traditional sweets such as stollen (cake filled with dried fruit) and marzipan bread (until December 28).
Along the Rhine, the city of