Category: holidays

10 Alternative Christmas Markets

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 The Christmas Market in Tallinn, ,Estonia. Photo credit: Alpha Holiday Lettings.

Will you be Christmas shopping at Christmas markets this holiday season too? In Europe, we have a great affection for the holiday spirit and culture at local Christmas markets.

So we thought we would share this Top 10 Alternative Christmas Market Destinations list by Alpha Holiday Lettings below.  The holiday rentals website has chosen “delightful, yet unusual” Christmas market destinations, shopping hot spots that break away from the well-known favorites like Berlin, Munich, Vienna and Prague.

Alpha Holiday Lettings offers mostly privately-owned, self-catering apartments, cottages and holiday villas in destinations including Spain, England, France, Portugal, Italy, Cyprus and Turkey.

“The popular Christmas market destinations are always a safe-bet but we recognize that some of our customers are looking for a different experience – maybe something a bit removed from the run-of-the-mill tourist spots” says Tom Lei, CEO of Alpha Holiday Lettings.

According to Alpha Holiday Lettings, here are the Top 10 Alternative Christmas Market Destinations:

  1. Zagreb, Croatia
  2. Manchester, UK
  3. St Petersburg, Russia
  4. Chicago, USA
  5. Melbourne, Australia
  6. Tallinn, Estonia
  7. Singapore
  8. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  9. Krakow, Poland
  10. Dijon, France

See more Christmas markets.

Fab Christmas Crafting Tips

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Find Christmas holiday inspiration and locally made decorations and gifts at fairs like the Country Living Magazine Christmas Fair. Photo credit: Country Living Magazine Christmas Fair.

Looking for ways to green your Christmas holidays at home or abroad? Get crafting! Akiho Schilz wrote this post about crafting and keeping it green at Christmas.

Crafting is a great way to get into the Christmas spirit, and it’s a fun activity to get the kids involved with in the run-up to the festivities.

And the best part is you don’t need glue guns and high tech wizardry to make some simple, effective, and eco-friendly Christmas decorations for your house. Here are a few top tips for some green Christmas crafting:

Eco-friendly Christmas tree

No house is complete without a Christmas tree to pile all those lovely presents under. Why not make your own this year? All you need is some spray paint, and a trip to the park with the kids. Pick up as many fallen leaves as you can (if they’re wet, you’ll need to dry them at home), and a few long, strong but relatively thin branches of different lengths. At home, lay down some newspaper, and spray the leaves with festive colors. When dry, pierce the leaves through and layer them along the branches. Leave about 30cm at the bottom of each branch, and tie the ends together with garden wire. Arrange the branches in a heavy-base pot or tall vase for your very own Christmas tree!

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A recycled map Christmas tree decoration. Photo credit: Country Living Magazine Christmas Fair.

Personalized recycled wrapping paper

Reams of wrapping paper are wasted every year as presents are torn open by eager little fingers, only to be dumped in the rubbish bin. Why not try buying some plain recycled paper, and getting the kids to decorate it? You can make simple potato prints of festive things – a tree, a bell, a dove if you fancy a challenge. Then use some water-based paints in festive colors (red, green and gold, for instance), to dip them in, and print over the paper. Leave to dry, then wrap, and tie up with string. Add a ‘Please Recycle Me’ note, and voilà! Eco-friendly wrapping paper with a personal touch.

Recycled book sculptures 

Got some old books you don’t need anymore? Here’s a great way to recycle them into festive Christmas ‘lanterns’. First, read this excellent tutorial which turns old books into pumpkins. Instead of a pumpkin shape, try a Christmas tree shape or a bell shape, and add a sprig of holly or ivy and a festive ribbon to the top. Easy peasy.

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Take pinking shears to well-loved fabrics and make gift wrap for tricky shaped gifts. Use fabric you have at home like an old shirt or curtains, gather the fabric and tie with ribbon, recommends Fiskars. Photo credit: Fiskars.

Evergreen garland 

Evergreens have been used for generations at Christmas time, not just for decorative purposes but also to ward off evil and illness. They’re also great to make garlands with, as they last for ages and won’t droop. Collect some evergreen branches – fir, holly, pine and ivy are great for this. Cut to size. Take a length of old rope (check the shed before you buy any!) just shorter than the length you want your garland to be, and using garden wire start to attach the branches, one by one. Don’t worry if there are gaps, you can fill these later with pine cones, berries and ribbon. When you’ve run the length of the rope, fill in the gaps. You can affix your garland to a branch and lay it along a mantelpiece, or you can wind it around a banister.

5 Green Christmas Tips

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Green Gift: Reusable mug. Photo credit: SIGG.

A holiday survey by Harris Interactive has found 43% of U.S. adults plan to be “greener” this holiday season.

Will you be going greener this holiday? Jackie Warrick of shares some smart, easy peasy greener holiday tips.

Here are 5 Green Christmas Tips:

  • Invest in a timer: “Everyone loves a beautiful Christmas lights display, but it doesn’t need to be lit 24/7. Pick up an easy-to-use timer to ensure your lights aren’t running around the clock.”
  • Use recyclable & reusable items: “If you’re hosting a Christmas meal, consider using (reusable and) recyclable plates, napkins and utensils to lessen the waste of your celebration.”
  • Turn down the heat: “Whether you’re heading out of town or hosting a large event, your thermostat (and heating bill!) could use a break. Turn it down a few notches to save green and consume less energy.”
  • Cut back on paper: “When you’re out shopping for gifts, ask yourself if you need a box and bag for everything you purchase. Also, consider re-using gift wrap, bags and bows rather than always buying new ones.”
  • Get rid of your tree the right way: “If you do decide to purchase a live tree, look into ways to recycle or reuse your tree instead of just tossing it. Many communities will compost it, use it as mulch or consider re-planting in your yard with the proper equipment.”

A Christmas Market Holiday

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Luxury and history at Excelsior Hotel Ernst in Cologne, Germany. Excelsior Suite with view of Cologne Cathedral.

Looking for Christmas holiday ideas?  If Europe’s Christmas markets are on your radar, you might fancy visiting the Cologne Christmas Markets.

The Excelsior Hotel Ernst in Cologne, Germany is offering a special Advent package celebrating the famous Cologne Christmas Markets from late November to late December.

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Taku Restaurant.

The Advent package at Excelsior Hotel Ernst will include:

  • One night in a standard room;
  • Mulled wine upon arrival;
  • Complimentary use of the in-room mini-bar;
  • Breakfast buffet the following morning;
  • Use of the sauna and fitness facilities and
  • Late check-out on day of departure.

Dating back to 1863, the 142-room Excelsior Hotel Ernst is in the city centre of Cologne, opposite the Cologne Cathedral.

The hotel is walking distance away from shopping, the ‘cologne’ perfume houses, breweries, the railway station and the Rhine River.

At the Cologne Cathedral, one of the city’s most popular Christmas markets will offer 160 wooden pavilions beneath the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland region.

Market visitors can try sweet specialties, see artisans working and taste “Original Christmas mulled wine” in festive Christmas mugs.

Throughout Cologne, visitors can enjoy the Christmas season at Christmas concerts, nativity scene displays and an ice rink at the Heumarkt.

Images courtesy of the Excelsior Hotel Ernst.

Planting A Tree In The Forest

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A tree in The National Forest.  Photo credit: Gordon Hudson.

Planting a tree can be a simple, natural gift idea.

In Britain, you can Plant A Tree in The National Forest for your friends and family and local wildlife.

The National Forest is an environmental initiative whose forest spans 200 square miles of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

A single oak tree can support hundreds of species of birds, insects and other animals, says The National Forest.

When you buy Plant a Tree as a gift, you will receive a personalized certificate with your own special message and an invitation to a tree planting event.

At the event, you choose your tree, typically an oak, ash or birch and plant the ‘whip’ in The National Forest woodland.

The tree can also be planted for you.

For more info, visit The National Forest site.