Christmas in a winter wonderland

As the monsoon rain patters on your windows, the family gathers around the delicious spread at the dinner table. A giant roast turkey sits side by side with a dish of beef rendang. Friends of all cultural backgrounds drop by to join in the festivities. There’s laughter, carolling, and the occasional screaming child. Your uncle brings out the karaoke set and starts his “uncle” medley of songs in his baritone warble (Robbie Williams’ Angels is a must), much to the dismay of every Gen Z-er in the room.

This is all lovely and memorable, but have you considered changing it up a bit? Maybe this is the time to take the family on a winter wonderland adventure. Here’s why.

Christmas is a worldwide cultural holiday celebrated by people from different countries who share the same enthusiasm while having different kinds of celebration. But it might be true that people always dream about a “white” Christmas. Even in Malaysia, a country that doesn’t snow, the image of Christmas that adorns greetings cards and decorates shopping malls is often associated with a snowy landscape and prancing reindeer. For this year, why not take the opportunity to immerse yourself in these winter traditions? Here are some of them.

In certain alpine regions of Europe, including Austria, Germany, and Hungary, the tradition of Krampus is observed. Krampus is a horned creature who accompanies Saint Nicholas and punishes misbehaving children during the Christmas season. Krampus runs or parades are held, where people dress up as Krampus and scare others. In Austria, you can take in Vienna's tradition of Advent concerts in beautifully lit churches, listening to angelic voices and orchestras performing classic Christmas carols. Further south in Naples, Italy, you’ll find intricate and elaborate Nativity scenes, called "Presepi." In Greece, the feast day of Theophany is celebrated during the Christmas season. As part of the celebrations, waters are blessed, and a cross is thrown into the freezing water. Brave Greeks dive in to retrieve the cross for good luck.

Rovaniemi, in the Lapland region of Finland, is considered Santa’s kampung. Visitors can tour his workshop where the toys for all the good children around the world are (supposedly) made. And while you’re in Lapland, you may get the chance to witness natural phenomena like the midnight sun and the mind-blowing Northern Lights.

Time for presents

Ah, yes, we mustn’t forget the presents. Christmas wouldn’t be complete without the excitement of exchanging presents. What’s the point of going all the way to Europe without taking advantage of the unique presents you can get there?

If you’re in Finland, you can consider gifting high-quality glassware from renowned Finnish brands like Iittala, Arabia, and Nuutajärvi. For the trendy, Marimekko is a famous Finnish design brand known for its vibrant patterns. From clothing to home decor, there are plenty of unique gift options to choose from. And for the little ones (or the young at heart) Moomins are beloved characters from Finnish literature. Look for Moomin-themed products such as plush toys, books, or home accessories as charming gifts.

Greece is much more than ancient ruins, olive oil, and the Mediterranean diet. The country has a long history of exquisite jewellery craftsmanship and is home to many famous jewellery designers. Polina Ellis is a jewellery designer who combines her research and knowledge as an archaeologist with unique designs that are true to Ancient Greek ethos.

Austria isn’t the usual country that springs to mind when we think of chocolate – that goes to Switzerland or Belgium. But Austrian chocolate can certainly compete with the best in the world. Chocolate cake, to be more specific. The iconic Sachertorte is a true Viennese specialty and comes ready packed in beautiful gift boxes for the Christmas season.

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The world is your oyster. Wherever you decide to spend the holidays, immerse yourself in the culture and enjoy creating cherished Christmas memories with your loved ones. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us at RHB!

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