Traditions are at the heart of holiday celebrations, but a new adventure can add spice to the season. If you’re ready for something different, there’s a world of possibilities out there. Want a winter wonderland? Step back into a fairytale setting that dates back over 500 years by visiting the famous Christmas Markets in Germany. Jingle through the streets of Nuremburg in a horse-drawn carriage as the coachman sings “Oh Tannenbaum” and behold the world’s largest collection of festive stalls offering hand crafted gifts and sparkling decorations including signature gold foil angels. The merry-go-round offers children magical memories while parents are warmed by bratwurst, lebkuchen (gingerbread) and gluhwein (mulled wine). And don’t miss the appearance of the Christkind, Nuremburg’s answer to Santa in angelic female form, gilded head to toe, bearing gifts and hope to wide-eyed little ones.
Across the Atlantic lies another type of wonderland that’s on the short list of holiday travel favorites–the City that Never Sleeps. For over 85 years Rockefeller Center’s towering tree has presided over its iconic skating rink with a glittering invitation for travelers to share in the warmth of the decorations, camaraderie and spectacle of New York. High kicks from the Rockettes, high stepping equines pulling chariots past colorful displays in Central Park, the frenetic dance of Times Square’s light show, Broadway theatrics, and the crush of humanity on a 5th Avenue spree doesn’t scratch the surface of the Empire City’s offerings. For seekers of the ultimate “bright lights, big city” experience, NYC is a shopper’s fantasy and smorgasbord of multicultural holiday celebrations, food and fare that is somehow quintessentially American.
But many want to march to the beat of a different little drummer boy where holiday “get-away” conjures visions of sugar-sand beaches and a hammock gently swaying to birdsong for a long summer’s nap. Costa Rica is a welcoming destination due to it’s happy, peace-loving and nature-minded people. Dual coasts provide ample opportunities for world-class water sports. After the thrill of hanging ten in the surf near Jaco Beach, locals can suggest rafting and deep-sea fishing charters over an Imperial beer, the local brew. Make a coffee plantation your first stop for world-renowned brew-of-a-different-kind as you ascend to a volcano shrouded in the mists of lofty cloud forests. Look for bright blue butterflies and huge purple hummingbirds, exotic monkeys and sloths, and lush flora in terrain celebrated for its biodiversity.
Bavaria, the Big Apple and beaches aren’t on your bucket list? A little reindeer dust will
help create magical experiences closer to home. You can find holiday fun, a variety of cultural
traditions, food, shopping, and a way to celebrate the real spirit of the season by giving of yourself. A precious blessing to share is family time. Kids’ activities abound but warm December weather can ruin the season’s thrill of the chill. NOLA ChristmasFest promises a White Christmas inside the Convention Center with an ice rink, ice slide, carousel and other cool attractions. And what’s ice without fire? Watch as Papa Noel’s route is illuminated along River Road in the spectacular Cajun tradition of lighting the bonfires. Another French-inspired tradition is the Reveillon Dinner. Originating in the 1800s as a feast after midnight mass, some local restaurants have reinvented this as a season-long, multi-course offering celebrating their culinary roots.
And while many can celebrate with special dinners and outings, others are less fortunate and may need help from their families or neighbors. Gathering with friends and family to donate time or money can be a heartfelt magical experience with the gratitude of recipients being the most meaningful gift of all. St. Tammany Project Christmas facilitates “adopting” families to provide holiday gifts and food. Missing a departed loved one? You can assist needy elderly including helping with homemaking chores through Council on Aging St. Tammany (COAST). The Covington Food Bank, Covington Rotary and area YMCAs all offer donation and volunteer opportunities to help feed the hungry in our area. And the Northshore Humane Society accepts assistance for their “Home for the Holidays” adoption program.
Whether you choose an adventurous trip or remain home for the holidays, savor the experience and revel in making lifelong memories. If you can, share your blessings with those less fortunate and elevate the spirit of the season in your community and in your heart.