The Philippines goes all in with decorations and festivities over the Christmas season, and there’s no better place to check out the Filipino dedication to holiday dazzle than the city of San Fernando. Dubbed the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines,” San Fernando draws crowds each December for its Giant Lantern Festival. Twelve teams of designers and electricians from the region’s villages build colorful, intricate lanterns, or parols, that go head-to-head in competition for Best Lantern before being exhibited in public spaces around the city. The parols have come a long way from those that originally inspired the event. The lanterns have roots in the Filipino Catholic tradition of building small, colorful lights to illuminate the procession to Christmas Eve mass. Today’s giant lanterns are engineering and electrical feats that measure approximately 20 feet tall and can have up to 10,000 bulbs. Each lantern is designed to put on a seven-minute light show, set to music, and is judged based on originality and design. This was the 111th year of competition. The prize-winning lantern in 2019, from the team from Sta. Lucia, featured a mechanism that allowed the center of the piece to open, revealing a stained-glass scene. Every year, the Giant Lantern Festival lights up San Fernando for locals and thousands of visitors from the middle of December until New Year's Day. Photographer Chona Kasinger, who grew up near San Fernando, was on hand for the 2019 competition and shares her photos with us here to help make your holiday a little brighter.
Whether you prefer the most traditional of Tannenbaums or seek out the more experimental and avant-garde creations, there’s a city or town somewhere in the world with a Christmas tree that’s exactly right for you. London offers up a little something for everyone: an LED-block tree with a slide winding through it in Wembley Park, a traditional tree in Trafalgar Square that’s gifted by the city of Oslo each year, and a giant living redwood delicately decorated by conservationists at Wakehurst Place, south of Gatwick Airport. And that's just to name a few. Related:These Stores and Restaurants Are Open on Christmas Day In the U.S., the Rockefeller Center tree in New York City may be one of the most famous and most visited trees in the world. But visitors also flock to the quirkier creations, including the hubcap tree on Baltimore’s “Christmas Street,” and a sand sculpture tree in West Palm Beach, Florida. Trees in Europe range from the classically decorated showstoppers at the Vatican and in Milan to a holographic tree at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and an artist-created wooden structure that visitors can climb in Rakvere, Estonia. Here are 30 of the most sparkly, most innovative, most Christmas-y Christmas trees worth traveling the world to see.