Vilnius, which is titled one of the most magical Christmas cities in Europe, introduced a 5-week winter holiday programme, as impressive and full of miracles and surprises as always. So what magic can residents and guests of the city expect this year in the Christmas capital?
Nativity scenes, which are held in Slovenia around Christmas, are one of the country’s most popular symbols of Christmas celebrations. Postojna Cave has held one of the biggest Christmas festive events, featuring Live Nativity Scenes and a Christmas market already for 28 years. This year’s Living Nativity features 16 Biblical scenes with more than 150 amateur performers from the local community and top Slovenian musicians, who make the story even more special. Read further and find out why.
The behind the scenes story is really amazing and offers a unique insight into the personal stories of the performers. The show is put together by a team of local amateurs, who live and breathe their roles and make the show one of the most anticipated events in the year.
The 68-year-old Milan K. who plays Zechariah and The Last Shave shaves his beard every Wednesday and Sunday morning. The first time he grew his beard was four years ago, to commemorate the time when his wife was in hospital recovering from surgery. At that time, he was also spotted for the role of Zechariah. Since then, his last shave before the show is on 6th October. “Oh, the itching in the first weeks is the hardest part of being bearded,” he says. After the performances end in December, the beard must go, as Mrs Kastelic does not approve it.
There are four scenes with Joseph in the show. Thus, four Josephs are needed for the Postojna Cave’s walking Living Nativity performance. Long hair, a long beard and acting skills are essential, but there is one who deserves special attention: Nik Č. He has played the lead role in the scene called The Birth, the most challenging and emotional scene for five years. He is religious, likes metal, plays the guitar and loves dogs. To perform in Postojna Cave, he takes five days annual leave and carefully hides all seven Metal Camps festival wristbands on his left hand.
Virgin Mary was played by a local Instagram star, who now lost the role of Virgin Mary since she dyed her hair blonde. Instead, she got the role of an angel in this year’s performance. The men who take on the roles of the Three Wise Men, come from three very different backgrounds. But thanks to nativity experience, they have become good friends. Anthony’s B. first week after moving to Postojna was during a devastating sleet storm, which paralyzed the town. He ended up making a new friend on that first day and got invited to the Living Nativity. Matej K. became a performer when he saw the devotion of his newly bearded father, and Marino S., a local artist joined the Nativity “just for fun,” he says.
Behind every successful show stands a devoted director and behind the Living Nativity at Postojna stands the 73-year-old Gabrijela B., whose professional career is far from theater. In fact, she has devoted her career to coaching. In Postojna, she is known as one of the strictest and talented basketball coaches. Her professional skills definitely help her with directing the show with more than 150 performers. She has done it already for 28 years now.
The 16-year-old Martina G. is studying to become a make-up artist. She spends her summer job wages on professional make up she “cannot afford” according to her sister! The busiest time of the year for her is the end of the school year, not just because it’s an exam period, but also because she is the local prom make-up artist.
Postojna Cave is one of Slovenia’s most breathtaking sights with a 200-year tradition in tourism. Every December, for five days, the cave transforms into a magical Christmas venue for the Living Nativity Scenes, which are set along the entire five-kilometre tourist route. During one of the most magnificent renditions of the biblical Christmas story featuring more than 150 performers a day, you even have a chance to ride a small cave train.
From 25 to 30 December, the 90-minute Christmas spectacle will take place several times a day. Check out the timetable here.
Silvija Travel Tips www.silvijatraveltips.com
With the UK high streets becoming increasingly busy with shoppers on the hunt for the perfect gift, now is the time to escape the Christmas chaos with a well-timed winter shopping break to Philadelphia. The city of Philadelphia is offering a festive selection of shopping experiences for travellers this winter, including browsing the outdoor market stalls at the 10th annual Christmas Village in the recently re-opened LOVE Park and tax-free shopping at the festively decorated Macy’s. Or travellers looking for carols, cocoa and roasted chestnuts on fairy-lit streets can explore the quaint neighbourhood of Chestnut Hill, which will host lively Stag and Doe Shopping Nights throughout December 2017.
Alongside tax-free shopping on clothes and shoes, Philadelphia is also consistently citied as one of the most walkable cities in the US – the perfect combination for a stress-free shopping break. The city is renowned for its excellent shopping districts, including the centrally-located Rittenhouse Row which is brimming with independent shops and national retailers alike. Travellers looking to find a one-off gift for a loved one back home can also find a great selection of vintage and thrifted items in the various boutiques located in the Old City of Philadelphia and those eager to ‘shop until they drop’ should head to the nearby King of Prussia Shopping Center or the Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Limerick, Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia Celebrates The Christmas Village’s 10th Anniversary at LOVE Park
Following an official opening ceremony by the Christkind from Nuremberg on Thanksgiving (23rd November), the city’s recently renovated LOVE Park will be transformed into a winter wonderland with the return of the 10th annual Christmas Village. Inspired by the traditional German Christmas markets, Philadelphia’s very own open-air Christmas Village will play host to more than 80 vendors from across the world until Christmas Eve. From the wooden booths, local and international merchants will sell traditional gifts and treats, including ornaments, toys, jewellery and artwork. Following a browse of the stalls, holidaymakers are invited to warm up with a glass of mulled wine or hot chocolate under twinkling lights, while enjoying the festively-themed and mouth-watering food. Admission to the Christmas Village in Philadelphia is free, with food, drink and shopping available to purchase. For more information, visit www.philachristmas.com
Enjoy the Christmas Light Show and Tax-Free Shopping at Macy’s
Dating back more than half a century, the Christmas Light Show and Wanamaker Organ Concert at Philadelphia’s Market Street Macy’s is not to be missed during a family break in the city. During the show, 10,000 LED lights will create falling snowflakes, dancing ballerinas and reindeer against a four-storey-high velvet curtain in the store’s atrium, all to a soundtrack provided by the largest playable instrument in the world, the Wanamaker Organ. After the show, bargain-hunters can enjoy over 157,000 square feet of shopping space, take a stroll through the store’s wonderland of holiday window displays, or head to the third floor to explore the Dickens Village, which will include over 100 animated figures re-enacting 26 of A Christmas Carol’s most memorable moments. The Christmas Light Show and the Macy’s Dickens Village will run from 24 November – 31 December, excluding Christmas Day. For more information and for store opening hours, visit www.visitmacysusa.com/philadelphia.
Stag and Doe Shopping Nights in Chestnut Hill
Each Wednesday throughout December, Philadelphia’s charming north-western neighbourhood of Chestnut Hill will celebrate the season with Stag and Doe Shopping Nights, one of the areas oldest and most loved holiday traditions. Located just 25 minutes from Center City, travellers visiting the historic district of Chestnut Hill can enjoy extended opening hours of many stores on the festively decorated and tree-lined streets of Germantown Avenue, with many hosting holiday sales and promotions. Along with a chance to purchase unique gifts for loved ones back home, the nights will also provide revellers with live entertainment, seasonal treats, dazzling lights and carollers. For more information on Christmas events in Chestnut Hill, visit www.chestnuthillpa.com/events/holidays-hill-2017.
A package for a last-minute shopping break to Philadelphia includes:
Four-Night Package To Philadelphia From £843 Per Person
America As You Like it is offering a four-night package to Philadelphia from £843 per person. Package includes direct return flights from London Heathrow to Philadelphia with Virgin Atlantic and four nights’ accommodation at the Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District. Price is based on selected departure dates in December 2017 and is based on two people sharing. For more information or to book, call 020 8742 8299 or visit www.americaasyoulikeit.com.
For more information on Philadelphia, visit the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau’s website, www.discoverPHL.co.uk
Silvija Travel Tips www.silvijatraveltips.com
British Airways is gearing up for the Christmas getaway and expects to operate more than 11,000 flights to and from London between Friday December 22 and Friday January 4, with the most popular destinations chosen by customers including New York, Rome and Geneva.
More than 60,000 Christmas dinners and 90,000 mince pies will bring some of the season’s spirit to customers on long-haul flights, and on short-haul flights a new M&S On-Board menu continues the celebration with Santa Percy Pigs and a seasonal Turkey Feast sandwich.
For the first time ever British Airways has created a dedicated Christmas channel on its in-flight entertainment system called ‘Festive Cheer’ showing a number of classic Christmas films including Home Alone and Elf. Television programmes include The Office Christmas Special and audio treats such as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Rachel Joyce’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas are gifted to customers.
To help bring some sparkle to the season, the airline has also added two English sparkling wines to its first class drinks menu. Camel Valley and Gusbourne will be available on board for six months.
Carolina Martinoli, British Airways’ director of brand and customer experience, said: “Christmas is obviously an incredibly popular time of the year for friends and families to travel and reunite, so we want to make the flying part of their travels exciting and special for them. To mark the season, we like to inject some fun and tradition with Christmas dinners, festive films and seasonal tipples.”