The Best Winter Festivals Around The World

If the festive season is about one thing at all, then surely it’s celebration. All across the world, December is a month in which many cultures pay homage to the winter season and put on some of the most spectacular festivals ever seen. If you’re on the road this Christmas season, it’s a great opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the most unique festivals the world has to offer. Whether you like ceremonies of light or festive fairs or ice sculptures, it doesn’t matter; this season, anything goes.

Christmas Carved From Ice

In the aptly named town of North Pole in Alaska, something very special gets underway during the month of December. As if by magic, dozens of intricate ice sculptures pop up all over the town, sculpted by talented artists and craftsmen. The result is truly worth seeing with your own eyes; with up to 2.2 million tons of ice on show, there’s a lot of festive joy to be shared and making your way through the sculptures is like picking through your very own ice forest.

Festival of Lights


Fête des Lumières – Lyon

While there are dozens of light festivals around the world, the most spectacular and famous has to be that of Lyon in France. Taking place each year between the 6th and 9th of December, the festival sees the entire city lit up by impressive light displays, shows, and events. Citizens of the city even take part in the festivities by placing candles outside of every window of their house, resulting in a sight that might just take your breath away.

The Hometown Of Christmas


Roasting chestnuts.

Also known as Santa Claus’ hometown, the town of Santa Claus in Indiana gets well and truly wrapped up with the Christmas season. Celebrating the holiday for a mammoth three weeks, the town puts on a huge range of activities and shows from Christmas lights tours, to community chestnut roasting sessions. Really keen visitors can even get cosy at Santa’s very own lodge, a place guaranteed to fill you with festive cheer.

Burning Of The Devil


This Festival is also known as La Quema del Diablo.

Those looking to snaffle up a few extra good points before the big day rolls around should turn up at the Burning of the Devil festival in Guatemala City. Taking place at the beginning of December, the festival sees people completely clearing out their homes and basements for any extra garbage as it is said that the devil lurks in unclean corners and under beds. The garbage is collected in the streets, topped with a devil effigy and set alight during the evening, after which you can expect some of the most spectacular fireworks you have ever seen.


Geneva, Switzerland - December 13, 2014: The Molard square at night illuminated by Christmas decorations, in downtown Geneva.

Molard Square at Christmas. (Geneva, Switzerland)

Those with a taste for the sweeter things in life should make a beeline to the L’Escalade festival that takes place each year in Switzerland. The largest festival in the country’s city of Geneva, L’Escalade involves the smashing of hundreds of marzipan-filled chocolates, which are then gathered up and devoured by onlookers. Tummy fit to bursting, you can then go on to enjoy a series of torchlit processions and large bonfire in the city’s cathedral square, topping things off with a festive bang.

While we might all have our own idea of what the festive season should be, there’s no reason why we can’t expand our horizons and experience something new over the holidays. Home to some of the most varied and fascinating festivals across the world, these towns are more than pulling their weight this Christmas. How will you celebrate?

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.

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