Creative tour planners can offer their clients all kinds of holiday-season trips, from Christmas markets in Germany to New Year’s Eve festivities on Rio’s Copacabana Beach.
With the year’s end upon us, several holidays come around: Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s most notably. Many of you who plan group trips – both big and small – may wish to focus on ways that travel can help your members enjoy the holidays. And while it may be too late for this year, it’s not too late to start now making plans for year’s end 2015.
I find that many folks plan family get-togethers during this time of year. Yet, on the other hand, I often see those who seem to be at loose ends during holidays. I see those who are recently widowed, those whose family may be scattered all over the country (and overseas), and others whose kids decide not to come home for the holidays but rather visit some far-off land.
Avoiding the Pre-Holidays Crunch
So, while many of your past travelers have holiday plans with their families, others would welcome a year-end festive get-together or even a getaway tour or cruise. For years I operated an annual Christmas/New Year’s tour and many’s the tour members who decided to climb on board and bring the whole family along, thus avoiding the whole pre-holiday “crunch” of planning, shopping, cooking and general exhaustion that often accompanies the holidays.
I took them to Mexico City and surrounding towns, where we learned to celebrate the Mexican holiday customs. The tour membership included several families with three generations on board and the children interacted with the children of the hotel employees at the evening holiday celebrations, known as the posadas. This is a nine-night celebration (Dec. 16-24) recreating Mary and Joseph’s search for a room at the inn in Bethlehem. There are candle-lit celebrations at homes and hotels including, of course, the traditional breaking of the dangling piñata and scrambling for the candies and mini-gifts that fall from above.
World Holiday Festivities
There are also many holiday festivities to enjoy as we travel the world. In France, it may be cold but wonderful nativity scenes (called creches) abound. The locals enjoy a very late after-midnight supper but children don’t get their gifts on Christmas Day but rather on St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6). In Argentina, it’s mid-summer, school’s out and everyone’s at the beach if they possibly can. There are fireworks and red and white decorations everywhere. Similarly, New Year’s Eve on Copacabana Beach in Rio is a scene never to be forgotten. Small fires are lit in the sand everywhere and the local practitioners of macumba play their drums, puff on their pipes and invoke the spirits. Those who come to the many hotel parties along Copacabana wear yellow, the typical color of celebration.
Other Holiday Ideas
Other thoughts, but slightly afield, might be a pre-holidays trip visiting the renowned Christmas markets along the Rhine – perhaps on a river cruise – and throughout Germany. During the month of December leading up to Christmas the Germans enjoy festivities at their outdoor town markets where one can buy lovingly-crafted toys, hand-blown glass ornaments, dollhouses, nutcrackers and all sorts of other goodies. One keeps the brisk winter weather at bay while enjoying hot mulled wine and gingerbread and often carolers will entertain from nearby balconies to enhance the festive spirit of the season.
And Closer to Home
We mustn’t forget holiday opportunities here at home. Many world-famous hotels feature unbelievable festivities celebrating the season. For example, the Ahwahnee Hotel in California’s Yosemite National Park features the Bracebridge Dinner, turning the dining room into an 18th century English manor. The dinner event includes a four-hour pageant out of the Middle Ages on certain dates in December. Other hotels may do equally interesting holiday events worthy of your investigation for the one that’s closer to home and of interest to your particular group.