Oaxaca, Mexico with its vibrant indigenous art is colorful any time of year, but Christmas in this southeastern Mexico town and its surrounding pueblos brings an extra dose of exuberance, religious tradition and family celebration.
The Posadas begin on December 16th, parades of families who wind through the streets making their way to a neighborhood church. The largest posada happens on Christmas Eve when neighborhood posadas converge in the zocalo to circle it before parading to their neighborhood church for midnight mass. Arrive at the zocala by 7pm for a good seat to the festivities.
December 23rd is the Night of the Radishes celebration, a 120 year old tradition of local artists carving extra large radishes into scenes depicting traditional Oaxaca (the Nativity, churches, people in traditional clothing) or contemporary scenes (the 2018 displays included a memorial to Stephen Hawking and another of fantastical dragons entitled the Apocolypse). The night is accompanied by music and fireworks. The displays are set up on the morning of December 23rd and draw crowds all day so to avoid the extra long lines at night, arrive early to see the artwork.
In the week leading up to Christmas local markets, street vendors and stores overflow with colorful textiles, wooden creatures called alebrijes, pottery, handmade tin Christmas decorations, nativity scenes and food delicacies like tamales and bunuelos, a fried dough covered with cinnamon and sugar. While you can purchase from the stores, a trip to one of more of the surrounding pueblos is far more interesting. There you can visit family workshops, meet the artists and know that the money from your purchase is going directly to the craftspeople who made them.
Founded in 1993, the 484,000 acres of Southwest Idaho public land known as the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area hosts the single largest concentration of nesting raptors in North America and, perhaps, the world. Located near Boise along 82 miles of the Snake River, the habit’s flat topography is cut by a deep swath of river canyon lined with 700-foot cliffs. The conditions are raptor nirvana. There are high ledges and crevices for nest-building and currents from the river bottom providing the lift needed for birds of prey to hunt the area’s thriving ground squirrel and rabbit population. To learn more click here.
Located between Livingston, Montana and Yellowstone Park, charming Chico Hot Springs Resort has been a getaway for locals and Montana bound tourists for generations. Its scenic Paradise Valley location surrounded by mountains, the complex’s unique history and its commitment to preserving its past has landed Chico Hot Springs Resort a designation on the National Register of Historic Places. To read more click here.
The Iron Curtain boundary that divided the occupied former Soviet countries from the rest of the world can now be traveled from north to south by intrepid cyclists on the newly developed Iron Curtain bicycle route known as EuroVelo 13. 6462.26 miles long, the journey through twenty countries past fourteen UNESCO World Heritage sites is a tour through a bleak period of history, rolling hills, urban landscapes and the varying climates of Nordic and temperate countries from Norway to Greece.
Read more about it here.
Iceland likely doesn’t rise to the top of your list when considering possibilities for Christmas and New Years. It’s winter. It’s cold and often plagued with winds and blizzards during its deep winter months. And it only has about four hours of daylight that feels more like early twilight that time of year. And yet, it’s precisely those conditions as well as its exuberant, unique and quirky holiday traditions based on Icelandic folklore that make the winter holidays in Iceland an unforgettable holiday experience.
via Winter Holidays in Iceland: Lights, Trolls and Traditions – Wander With Wonder
The small shops in Estonia are filled with colorful handmade textile art – colorful, knitted mittens, fine lacy shawls, vibrant striped skirts and bolts of woven cloth and fanciful, felted hats. Wandering the artists’ guilds, studios and shops in 2017, it’s hard to imagine the conditions its craftspeople endured during the country’s fifty-year Soviet occupation when all art had to be produced and sold in Soviet collectives under the restrictions of Soviet censored themes. That Estonian handicraft tradition survived the occupation is due in no small part to the persistence of its craftswomen. Check out my Global Comment story here.
Music in Estonia isn’t limited to celebrations of its strong tradition of choral music. The capitol city of Tallinn puts on Tallinn Music Week, a weeklong festival in March/April showcasing all forms of contemporary music, the arts, theatre, food and architecture using the city’s bookstores, bike shops, art galleries, bakeries, tech incubators, home decoration stores and shopping centers as venues. It’s a full-on sensory experience, an opportunity to explore Tallinn’s nooks and crannies and much of it is free to the public. Read about my experience here.