No snow, no fireplace or reindeer, but celebrating a tropical Christmas is no less exciting and colourful. Visit the shopping and entertainment paradises Hong Kong or Singapore, join the Filipinos in wishing for a New Year’s blessings or have a hot Christmas in Australia, the land of the Kangaroos. Join Wanderlust Tips as we explore what’s in store if you opt for a warm yet enchanting Christmas.
Christmas in Singapore – the city of light
Singapore doesn’t have cold winters and snow, but Christmas here is still fascinating thanks to the glamorous decorations and blissful cheers.
The 3-kilometer-long Orchard Road is the destination for shopping addicts, with dozens of hypermarkets and department stores. The street is filled with lights and colours, packed with activities and performances from Plaza Singapura to Tanglin Mall. Even if you’re not a shopaholic, you won’t be able to contain yourself after seeing discounted brand-name products including Wisma Atria or Takashimaya. You can even walk around an outdoor market, open only once a year during the holiday season. Even if you don’t enjoy crowded places, you won’t be able to refrain from joining the crowded streets filled with lights and a festive atmosphere, to greet the clowns or Santa Clauses parading the streets with their holiday spirit.
Where – What – How?
Saint Andrew’s Cathedral (11 St. Andrew’s Road – the biggest church in Singapore): Enjoy the stunning decorations and celebrate the moment when Christ was born in this spiritual atmosphere.
Orchard Road – a boulevard of light (about 3 kilometres away from the cathedral): Admire this brightly decorated street, with Santa Claus and snowman models dressed in brand clothes, enjoy street performances and sing carols in this warm atmosphere.
Christmas Wonderland (Gardens by the Bay): Indulge in a feast of light covering an area of 57,000 square-metres, get lost in a forest of150 Christmas trees, admire the 19.7-meter tall light sculpture Spalliera Castel Del Monte (which set the Southeast Asian record), hang out in an ice castle or ice rink and try 11 carnival games. You can also go shopping at Festive Market, which features English-style wooden booths selling 3D Christmas cards, homemade perfumes, and other beautiful handicrafts.
Time: 3:30 to 11 p.m. Tickets are 4 SGD (from December 2 to 8), 6 SGD (from December 9 to 15) and 8 SGD (From December 16 to January 1)
Merry Medley Flower Dome (Gardens by the Bay): Be mesmerised by this wonderful flower dome filled with the colours of poinsettia, red lilies, roses and beautifully decorated Christmas trees, and do not miss the 9-metre tall Noble Fir Christmas tree.
Time: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. from November 11, 2016 to January 1, 2017. Address: Flower Dome, Gardens by the bay, 18 Marina Gardens Drive.
Universal Studios Santa’s All-Star Christmas:
Enjoy the snow, fireworks in the shimmering lights, and the music performed by artists dressed in Christmas clothes. Experience Santa’s Village where you can visit talking reindeers, gingerbread men, and Santa Claus on his sleigh ride. You can also watch the musical Bah, Humbug! featuring 17 famous characters like Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge, the Ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future and the little match girl. And you can watch beautiful ballet dancers in a splendid crystal ball.
Time: December 1, 2016 to February 1, 2017. Tickets are 36 – 74 SGD. Address: Resort World Sentosa, 8 Sentosa Gateway.
S.E.A. Aquarium: Merry Fishmas – Watch Santa Claus and the elves swim inside an aquarium with over 800 marine animals or craft your own Christmas decorations. You can also visit the Pokémon Research Exhibition to learn about the 700 Pokémon species and test your memory playing arcade games.
Time: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from October 22, 2016 to January 2, 2017. Tickets are 23 – 35 SGD (included entry to the aquarium). Address: Resort World Sentosa, 8 Sentosa Gateway.
Cirque Adrenaline features the most dangerous theatrical acts, including motorbike stunts, high-flying trapeze artists, strong men, aerial acrobatic displays and a blazing fire act to heat up your holiday season.
Time: December 15 to 25, 2016. Address: Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue. Ticket price: from 55SGD to 155SGD.
Hong Kong – An entertainment and shopping paradise
If you don’t know the best time to visit Hong Kong, you should book your tickets right now, because late fall, early winter, and Christmas is the ideal time to visit. Beautifully decorated Christmas trees, lit in November, brighten up the entire city. Prepare to be overwhelmed by 3D light performances. And look out for your favourite Disney characters dressed in Christmas-themed costumes or watch Santa Claus swim around in the Grand Aquarium in Ocean Park.
Where – What – How?
Disney Sparkling Christmas (Disneyland Hong Kong): enjoy a fairy tale Christmas with Mickey Mouse and his friends, dressed in Christmas costumes. Enjoy beautiful snow on Main Street, USA and admire colourful Christmas trees filling the campus with the holiday spirit.
Time: November 12, 2016 to January 2, 2017
Christmas Tree (Statue Square): A splendid Christmas tree topped with a star stands out among the skyscrapers. Christmas caroles are being performed a few times a day from December 19 to 24, 2016. Santa Claus will pay a visit from December 9 to 11 and December 16 to 25. And you can buy lovelocks for 50 HKD to commemorate your time here.
Address: Statue Square, Central, Hong Kong. Christmas trees are lit from December 2 to 31, 2016.
White Christmas (Times Square): Shoppers can skate, throw snowballs, or build a snowman in the Snow Chamber, and enjoy a rare white Christmas in a tropical country.
Time: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., November 24, 2016 to January 1, 2017. Address: Time Square, Causeway Bay.
Hong Kong Pulse 3D light show: Admire amazing 3D light performances and enjoy the endearing adventures of the unlikely hero ‘Eddie the Elf’.
Time: 4 performances per night at 8:20 p.m., 8:45 p.m., 9:15 p.m., and 9:45 p.m. from December 25 to 28, 2016. Address: Open Piazza, Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Ocean Park: Enjoy amazing illusions by famous magicians, a 21-meter-tall Christmas tree, watch Santa Claus feed the fish at Grand Aquarium, and sink your teeth into the wonderful world of Christmas candy.
Time: From December 17, 2016 to January 2, 2017
Australia – A summer Christmas
Christmas in Australia coincides with the start of summer vacation, so Australia has quite a special Christmas season. Don’t be surprised when you see Santa Claus wearing a tank top and sunglasses out on the streets, or an overheated Santa in his traditional snowsuit and thick beard, or a skateboarding Santa handing out gifts. Don’t be shocked when you see Santa on a sleigh pulled by kangaroos instead of reindeers, or even Santa riding fire trucks, because in the summer, a lot of bush fires happen in Australia.
A popular Christmas present is swimwear. Aussies often enjoy Christmas dinner after swimming a few laps, sometimes with a towel still wrapped around them. During Christmas season, Australians love to play sports: cricket at the beach, surfing and swimming instead of gathering by the fireplace like in colder countries. But like everywhere else they decorate stores, their homes, parks, churches and even their cars.
Boxing day follows Christmas and people still have time off, but stores are open. It is a time to barbeque on the beach, and shopaholics can enjoy the sales.
Where – What – How?
QVB Swarovski Christmas tree: This 24-meter tall Christmas tree is the tallest in Sydney. Shoppers will be enchanted by its nostalgic beauty with over 82,000 sparkling Swarovski crystals and 65,000 twinkling lights topped by a dramatic 2.2m wide crystal gilded star, with a total weight of over 6.5 tonnes.
Time: October 27, 2016 to January 8, 2017. Address: Queen Victoria Building, Sydney NSW 2000. Admission is free.
Lights of Christmas: An amazing celebration of lights and music, hosted by St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on its 75-meter façade. This year’s theme is ‘Joy to the World’.
Time: Performances take place daily from 7:30 p.m. to midnight. Address: St. Marys Road, Sydney. Admission is free.
Boulevard of Light is located along Pitt Street Mall, decorated with thousands of LEDs. The forest of lights makes shopping at nighttime even more exciting.
Time: November 26 to December 24, 2016. Christmas carols every Thursday from 6 – 8 p.m. Address: Pitt Road, Sydney.
Garden Grubs: Make your own Christmas decorations with flowers and leaves. This programme is designed for children from 6 to 12 years. They can visit the Royal Botanic Garden and use flowers and leaves to create ornaments, wreaths or beeswax candles.
Time: From December 21 to 23. Tickets are 85 AUD per child. Address: Royal Botanic Garden, Ms. Maccquaries Road, Sydney.
The Philippines – Say a Christmas prayer
December in the Philippines is a time of changing seasons (between the rainy and dry season), so the weather is cooler. Christmas season starts in September, when people start to decorate with parols, a star-shape Christmas lantern that evokes the Star of Bethlehem that guided the Three Kings to the manger.
In many other places, Christmas has become festival of commerce, but in the Philippines, Christmas is still a sacred holiday. Simbang Gabi (Night Mass) is a Christmas tradition in the Phillipines. Many people will come to mass early in the morning for 9 days from December 16 to 24. Mass can start as early as 3 a.m., decorated with colourful parols. After the last mass on December 24, families eat a traditional Christmas dinner together. Noche Buena (Christmas eve feast) features hearty dishes including grilled pork, bacon, fruit salad and rice crackers.
There are eight languages used in the Philippines, and there are many ways to say “Merry Christmas”. In Tagalong it is “Maligayang Pasko” or “Malipayon nga Pascua” in Ilonggo.
Where – What – How?
Visit churches in the Philippines: There are countless magnificent cathedrals such as Manila Cathedral (Sto. Tomas, Intramuros, Manila), Saints Peter & Paul Parish Church (Calasiao, 2418 Pangasinan) , Quiapo Church (Quiapo, Manila), Paoay Church (Paoay, Ilocos Norte), which has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage and many other beautiful churches. There are four churches in the Philippines recognised as UNESCO World Heritage. Admire medieval architecture and attend a Simbang Gabi.
Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul) takes place in San Fernando – the ‘capital city’ of Christmas in the Philippines. Every year they create 7 to 10 parols, sized from 7 to 10 meters, all beautifully crafted and exquisite, valued at 10,000 – 15,000 USD each.
Time: December 19, 2016 to January 6, 2017. Address: San Fernando, Pampanga.
Ayala Triangle Lights and Sounds Show takes place every 30 minutes from 6 – 9 p.m. at the Ayala Triangle Gardens.
Time: November 2016 to January 2017. Address: Ayala Triangle Gardens, Ayala Avenue, Makati.
Christmas fairs: Christmassaya Bazaar & Grand Carnival takes place from now until January 15, 2017 at Riverbanks Centre, Marikina. World Bazaar Festival takes place at the World Trade Centre Metro Manila (Gil Puyat Avenue, Pasay City). The Grand Holiday Bazaar takes place from December 21 to 30 at Glorietta Activity Centre, Ayala, Makati.
Local festivals to celebrate Christmas: Maytinis Festival takes place on December 24 at Kawit, Cavite; Paskuhan Festival takes place throughout December in Imus, Cavite.
Vietnam – A warm Christmas
Cold or not, Christmas in Vietnam is always crowded, especially around churches, Christian communities and pedestrian street. On Christmas Eve, people pour onto the streets to celebrate, meet with friends for a nice meal, and take photos in front of beautifully decorated churches or in brightly lid streets. In big shopping centres, you can see giant Christmas trees complete with Santa Claus and reindeers.
Where – What – How?
Streets that sell Christmas decorations: You can find Christmas ornaments on Hang Ma Street (Hanoi) or Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street (Ho Chi Minh City). In addition to shopping, people come here to admire the splendid decorations and festive atmosphere.
Cathedrals: St. Joseph’s Cathedral (40 Nha Chung Street, Hanoi) with European gothic design, Notre Dame Cathedral (District 1, Ho Chi Minh City) with roman architecture. Capture your memories and enjoy delicious food in the neighbourhoods around these churches.
Christian Communities: Photography enthusiasts can visit Christian communities in Ho Chi Minh City for the perfect background. From mid-December, famous Christian communities like District 3, Nghia Phat, Tu Duc and District 8 start to decorate the neighbourhood with lights and Christmas trees.
Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Street (Ho Chi Minh City) and Hoan Kiem Lake (Hanoi): The entire streets are decorated with colourful lights and filled with a vibrant atmosphere brought by the crowd. Nearby shopping malls, cafés and restaurants add to the festive atmosphere.
Shopping malls in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are decorated spectacularly every year with different themes, designed to attract the eyes of passerbys. They make for the perfect background for your Christmas photos.
Vietnam – Korea Giant Lantern Festival 2016 This glowing celebration is sure to overwhelm you with colourful giant lanterns, including a ‘zoo’ of animal-shaped lanterns like peacocks, swans and elephants.
The festival will take place at Le PARC, Gamuda City (near Yen So Park), Phap Van, Hoang Mai District, Hanoi. Time: From December 3, 2016 to January 22, 2017.
Christmas at Hanoi Creative City: Music and street art events including a John Lennon tribute night (December 8 at HNCC’s Creative Square), the Hip Hop dance contest Halley Jam (December 12 at HNCC’s Creative Square) and The New District Flea Market (December 24 & 25).
Address: 1 Luong Yen Street, Bach Dang, Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi.
Hong Nhung | Wanderlust Tips