Visiting presepju, or nativity scenes, is an integral part of Christmas in Malta. Every year, residents proudly open their shutters, and sometimes even their garage doors, to display their holy crib confections to the public.On a grander scale, the Bethlehem f'Ghajnsielem is a life-size nativity spread over 20,0000 square meters of formerly abandoned fields.Inhabited and animated by more than 150 actors, including entire families, the village takes visitors back in time to Judea of 2,000 years ago, complete with oil lamps, turn mills, grazing animals, crafts areas teaching traditional skills and folklore, a tavern and, of course, a grotto housing baby Jesus.
Downtown Valletta is also home to a lively Christmas spirit, with carolers singing outside the Baroque St. John's Co-Cathedral during Advent, and a dizzying display of Christmas lights on Republic Street.The Manoel Theater is well known for its annual Christmas pantomime.A visit to the privately owned Malta Toy Museum, featuring dolls, soldiers, train sets, and clockwork tin trinkets dating as far back as the 1790s, is a heartwarming homage to childhood.
2. New York
Rockefeller Center lies at the core of the New York Christmas. Its famed ice rink has been around for 80 years; the decorated tree has been a holiday tradition since 1931. Across the street, Radio City hosts the annual Christmas Spectacular, starring the Rockettes.On the southwest corner of Central Park, Columbus Circle hosts more than 100 vendors selling clothes, gifts, snacks and drinks at the Holiday Market.Central Park has two ponds for skating and horse-drawn carriage rides.Fashion's biggest names join in the festivities, setting up impressive Christmas window displays. The most glamorous cases, at the Fifth Avenue flagships and department stores such as Saks and Bergdorf, are impressive enough to melt the heart of Anna Wintour.
3. Bath, England
There are few cities in the world where you can celebrate the birth of Jesus and the birth of Jane Austen with the same amount of fanfare, but Bath, England, happens to be one of them.2017 marked the 200th anniversary of the much-loved writer's death, and while the main Austen love-in is during a festival in September, the Jane Austen Centre -- and on-site Regency Tearoom -- is the best place to learn about the city's most famous resident.The Theatre Royal, which Austen mentions in "Northanger Abbey" and "Persuasion," has a varied program of holiday drama, musicals, opera and concerts.
The Bath Christmas Market has more than 170 wooden chalets selling distinctively British handmade crafts in a quaint Georgian setting.Straddled between the imposing Bath Abbey and the venerable Roman Baths, the market offers a festive way to discover the character of Bath, which is the only entire city in the UK to have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Bath on Ice (until January 2, 2018) is a great excuse to bundle up and lace up skates, while the Thermae Bath Spa is the perfect reason to strip down and savor the steam emanating from the thermal mineral-rich waters of an open-air rooftop pool with spectacular views over the city.
4. Barcelona, Spain
Anyone who can manage to extend their Christmas holiday until Three King's Day (January 6 in 2018), can catch up with Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar in Barcelona.On the evening of January 5, they arrive at the city's port on the Santa Eulalia -- their very own ship -- in bearded and velvet-robed splendor. Cannons are fired, fireworks are set off, and as the mayor hands them the keys to the city, the magic of the Magi officially commences.They parade through the streets in a magnificent cavalcade of floats that includes camels, elephants, giraffes and dazzling costumes.
5. Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland
While legends dating as far back as the 1820s cite the North Pole as the official home of Santa Claus and his jolly missus, the Finns would have us believe otherwise.For them, Rovaniemi, Lapland, located just north of the Arctic Circle, is Christmas HQ.Here, children make gingerbread cookies with Mrs. Claus, enroll in Elf School or take a calligraphy class and compose their Christmas wish lists with a traditional quill.There are even seasonal positions available as elf workers in Santa's post office.Other area attractions include the Ranua Zoo, home to baby polar bears, wolverines and moose, and the Arktikum, a science center where the mystery of the northern lights is revealed.Those in search of a truly frosty experience can stay in the Arctic Snow Hotel, made entirely of snow and ice, but equipped with saunas and hot tubs in which to thaw.