Everyone has cherished traditions that help make holidays special, but sometimes it’s nice to change things up. Traveling is a great way to have a new experience on a holiday. Around the world, people celebrate many of the same holidays in vastly different ways.
Valentine’s Day – Switzerland
Everyone has spent Valentine’s Day in a crowded restaurant and it is honestly not the most romantic way to pass an evening celebrating love. A better idea may be to spend the night at a lodge in the Swiss Alps. There are plenty of options in the region due to its popularity with skiers. Winter sports can make a fun activity for Valentine’s Day, but even if they offer little appeal, it would be hard to find a more romantic setting than the snowy peaks of the Alps. Find a lodge with room service and a fireplace, and spend the evening snuggled up together. The only thing needed is a loved one, and maybe a bottle of wine.
St. Patrick’s Day – Ireland
On St. Patrick’s Day, you can find lively, slightly rowdy, festivities around the world. However, when it comes to celebrating their patron saint, Ireland is hard to beat. While it is not as big a drinking holiday there as in America, there are many great pubs throughout the country where you can find a pint of Guinness, just don’t expect to find any green beer. In Ireland, St. Patrick’s day is a cultural celebration. In Dublin you will be able to find bands playing traditional folk music, street theatre performances, and tours of all the local sites related to St. Patrick. Visiting Ireland on this holiday will give you a chance to learn why St. Patrick is so venerated and bring back a new appreciation for him.
Halloween – England
Parts of Halloween date back to ancient times, but the modern holiday is very much an American creation. As such, not many other countries can top the U.S. when it comes to standard celebrations. It is hard to find somewhere with a better atmosphere for Halloween than England. It is possible to visit an actual castle on Halloween. While it may not be the abode of Dracula, there are lists of supposedly haunted castles and manors throughout the country. London is a great place to find many eerie attractions in one location. The Tower of London and the London Dungeons both offer spooky settings, while numerous walking tours visit haunted locations or follow the footsteps of Jack the Ripper and other notorious denizens of the city.
Christmas – Finland
Finland practically guarantees a white Christmas. Of course, there are plenty of places that always see snow in December, what makes Finland stand out is that it is the home of Santa Claus. His village can be found in Rovaniemi. The Santa Claus Village has a number of stores and a theme park, all of which feature many Christmas themes.
There is also a marker showing where the Arctic Circle runs through the village. If the weather isn’t too bad, the more adventurous can visit Urho Kekkonen National Park. This is considered the traditional home of Santa Claus. It’s unlikely the jolly old elf make an appearance there, but there is a good chance of spotting reindeer and the scenery is gorgeous. As an added bonus, the Northern Lights are often visible in Finland in December.
New Year’s Day – Japan
The New Year celebrations in Japan may come as a surprise to people from the rest of the world. While it’s a common practice around the world to send out the old year with lively festivities, the Japanese celebration is very reserved and most stores are closed. However, it is a chance to experience traditional Japanese culture that most people never get.
Since transportation can be competitive and difficult around the new year, a tour group can be useful for making the most of the New Year’s celebration. Mount Takao can be easily reached from Tokyo. On the mountain, the Yakuo-in Temple has a prayer service at midnight and then another service at the top of the mountain at dawn to welcome the first light of the new year. The architecture of the building is beautiful. From its exquisite use of Irimoya roofing and sliding door hardware, the temple offers both a cultural and aesthetically pleasing experience for everyone.
A Japan tour of Kyoto would include many historic shrines that feature traditional New Year’s celebrations. Also, January 2nd is one of only two days when the grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace are open to the public.