The clock is ticking down to the impending holiday, but December holds more than just wrapping paper and pine needles in its bag of goodies. From a Victorian England festival to a Japanese ronin celebration, these events are worth the trip.
Dickens on The Strand
Visit the coastal city and travel back to Victorian England for the best of times and, well, the best of times. For a fun-filled weekend, The Strand National Historic Landmark District will transform into a 17th-century scene filled with hundreds of costumed folks, including traveling vendors selling their wares throughout the streets. With parades, carolers, street musicians, Victorian-style weddings, crafts, food and more, your great expectations are sure to be met.
Winter Beer Festival
Sure, a crisp, cool brew certainly hits the spot on a hot summer day, but there’s no law stating the chillier winter months are off limits when it comes to the refreshment. And that’s great because the Emerald City has assembled an impressive lineup of 32 regional breweries, including Black Raven Brewing, Silver City Brewery and the appropriately named Icicle Brewing, for this celebration of suds. Head to Hale’s Palladium for the hops, chocolate pairings by Theo Chocolate, pub food, fresh oysters and your chance to crown the top brews by voting for the people’s choice awards each day of the festival.
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill Soul2Soul
Opens December 7
If you’ve had enough of the Christmas carols already, visit The Venetian for a double dose of country tunes. In December, superstar spouses Faith Hill and Tim McGraw will start their run of shows at the Las Vegas hotel (their residency ends in April). It will be the first time that the duo has performed together since 2006.
It’s the land versus the sea in the annual showdown between the Army Black Knights (2-9) and the Navy Midshipmen (7-4). The squads from West Point, New York, and the United States Naval Academy venture to Philly, and hit the gridiron at Lincoln Financial Field in what will be 113th matchup between the inter-service rivals. The victor will receive the Commander in Chief’s Trophy, marking the first time since 2005 the honor will be decided by this game.
Gishi-Sai (Samurai Ronin Festival)
The Gishi-Sai festival honors one of the most-loved tales in Japanese history. Centered around the Sengakuji Temple every year, the observance chronicles the Forty-Seven Loyal Retainers in Akoh, a group of 47 ronin who avenged their master’s death by killing his enemy. View belongings of the master at the Akoh Gishi Memorial Museum (completed in 2001, 300 years after the incident), but the real draw is the Gishi Gyorestsu — a procession of floats, dancers and participants dressed as the samurai.
Fiesta de Santo Tomas
A celebration of the town’s patron saint (Saint Thomas, naturally), Chichi has a week’s worth of parades, fireworks and dances featuring revelers extravagantly dressed in shimmering costumes and sombreros. The town really ups the ante on December 21 (St. Thomas’ Day) by erecting wooden poles as tall as 90 feet near the Iglesia de Santo Tomas, a 16th-century Roman Catholic church, for the palo volador, or flying pole. Brave souls climb the poles in pairs before leaping with their only lifeline being a rope that they either hold on to with their hands or attach at their ankles. Thousands of onlookers from all over Guatemala come for the courageous display.
Photo Courtesy of iStock/Sam Chadwick