Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holiday's

Bavarian-style buildings decorated with lights & dusted with snow, Leavenworth, Wash. (© Leavenworth Area Promotions)

Sparkling Holiday Lights: Leavenworth, Wash.

Spectacular light displays are a hallmark of the holiday season in many locations around the globe.

Millions of lights, St. Nicholas, roasting chestnuts, and nonstop caroling — what’s not to love about Christmas in this Bavarian-themed village in the North Cascades? The buildings and trees in the village are lit each Saturday and Sunday afternoon throughout December in a special lighting ceremony that draws oohs and aahs every time. Skiing, snowshoeing, dog-sledding, Nordic skiing and sledding on the hill downtown are fun ways to kill time until the sun goes down.

Oil derricks lighted up for the holidays, Kilgore, Texas (© Kilgore Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau)

Sparkling Holiday Lights: Texas & Louisiana

Nothing says “happy holidays” like an illuminated oil derrick — and in Texas, it’s a sure sign that you’re on the Trail of Lights. In an hourlong drive along interstates 20 and 49, you can visit six cities decked out in their holiday finest: Natchitoches and Shreveport-Bossier City, La.; and Marshall, Jefferson and Kilgore, Texas. Revelers will find fireworks displays, candlelight tours of antebellum homes, skating rinks, steam-train rides and Christmas in the Oil Patch — 75 derricks lit with sparkling stars.
Niagara Falls with winter holiday lights, Ontario Canada  (© Roland Tobiasz/Via

Sparkling Holiday Lights: Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

The Winter Festival of Lights at Niagara Falls illuminates the powerful falls in a rainbow of colors in a ceremony that begins every evening at dusk, from early November through the end of February. The tradition dates back to 1860, when the falls were first lit to celebrate a visit by the Prince of Wales. The skies above the falls also light up with a weekly fireworks show in December.

Flaming menorah at Western Wall, Old City, Jerusalem, Israel (© Gideon Mendel/Corbis)

Sparkling Holiday Lights: Jerusalem

This nine-candle Hanukkah menorah (also called a hanukkiyah) stands high over the plaza at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Jewish festival of lights, held for eight days in late November or December depending on the Jewish calendar, commemorates the rededication of the Jewish Temple after it was recaptured from the Syrian Greeks in 165 B.C.E. A new candle is lit each night during the holidays.

Holiday tree constructed of LEGOs, LEGOLAND California, San Diego (© 2010 The LEGO Group)

Sparkling Holiday Lights: Lego Tree, San Diego

What can you build with 245,000 green Lego Duplo bricks? A 30-foot Christmas tree, as it turns out. Decorated with 400 ornaments — also made of Legos, natch — and lots of lights, this Legoland California tree from a distance looks almost real. If only Lego would make pine-scented bricks, it’d smell like a real tree, too.

Shoppers gather to view holiday light displays in the Shiodome area of central Tokyo (© David Guttenfelder/AP)

Sparkling Holiday Lights: Tokyo

Pictured above, the Blue Ocean holiday display ripples across the Shiodome area of Tokyo, near Tokyo Bay and the famed Ginza shopping district. Occupying what was once marshy tideland, Shiodome is a modern section of Tokyo that’s home to high-power office complexes (including the headquarters of behemoth Nippon Television) that showcase the city’s stunning architecture.

Christmas tree made recycled bicycles, Sydney, Australia (© Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Sparkling Holiday Lights: Tree-Cycle, Sydney, Australia

Look closely and you can see this is no ordinary tree; it’s made of 100 old bicycles that were bound for the garbage heap. A little creativity, a lot of colored paint, and voilà! A festive tree standing 23 feet tall. You can see it on display this season at The Rocks shopping district in Sydney, which is famous for featuring a tree made of recycled items each year. 
Lake Taneycomo Bridge with holiday decorations, Branson, Mo. (©  2009 Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. All rights reserved.)

Sparkling Holiday Lights: Branson, Mo.

The Branson Area Festival of Lights is a mile-long celebration of holiday illumination that can be viewed by visitors to Branson, Missouri. This drive-through exhibit features more than 175 lighted displays, representing well-known Christmas traditions as well as holiday celebrations of many cultures.
Holiday lights at Rockefeller Center, New York City (©

Sparkling Holiday Lights: Rockefeller Center, New York City

There may be no more iconic Christmas tree in the world than the one that graces New York City's Rockefeller Center. This year, a reported 100,000 people witnessed the lighting of a 74-foot Norway spruce in late November. The first holiday tree lighting took place here in 1933, no doubt offering Depression-era shoppers some much-needed cheer.  Now, the annual star-studded televised event kicks off the crazy holiday shopping season in New York.

Las Noches de las Luminarias, Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Ariz. (© Desert Botanical Garden)

Sparkling Holiday Lights: Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix

During the festival Las Noches de las Luminarias, the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix sparkles with the lights of thousands of luminarias, votive candles nestled in sand-filled paper bags. The meaning behind the tradition is disputed, but some say the festive lanterns light the way for the Christ child or the Three Wise Men. Others say they mimic early bonfires that led congregants to church on Christmas Eve. You can see luminarias in many Southwest towns, including Old Town Albuquerque and Santa Fe, N.M.

'Magic of Christmas' holiday garden light display at night, The Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada (© The Butchart Gardens Ltd.)

Sparkling Holiday Lights: Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia

The Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia, are illuminated each year during the gardens' Magic of Christmas event. Especially popular are the Twelve Days of Christmas light displays that are scattered about the 55-acre facility, which is in a former quarry and has been open to the public for more than 100 years.

Fireworks explode over floating Christmas tree, Rodrigo de Freitas Lake, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (© Ricardo Morales/Reuters/Corbis)

Sparkling Holiday Lights: Floating Christmas Tree, Rio de Janeiro

It takes 11 pontoons and seven biodiesel generators to keep the lights aglow on the floating Christmas tree in Rio de Janeiro. The 28-story-tall tree (made of 500-plus tons of steel) is adorned with nearly 3 million miniature light bulbs, 82 miles of regular lights and 1,600 ornaments. Fireworks and parties on the beach round out the holiday festivities.

Holiday lights along the Champs-Élysées leading to the Arc de Triomphe, Paris (© HP Huber/SIME/4Corners Images)

Sparkling Holiday Lights: Paris

The City of Light lives up to its name more than ever this month, when 400 trees illuminated with 1 million energy-saving lights add unparalleled sparkle to the Champs-Élysées. Paris during the holidays is especially wonderful for window shopping: spectacular designer-created displays at Printemps department store are an annual must-see for locals and visitors.
Boat decorated with holiday lights, Christmas Ship Parade, Portland, Ore. (© Maria Swearingen)

Sparkling Holiday Lights: Christmas Ship Parade, Portland, Ore.

Every December for more than 50 years, boaters in Seattle and Portland have strung lights on their masts, decorated their yachts and paraded en masse around Northwest waters. In Seattle, the flotilla visits 45 waterfront communities, and onboard carolers sing to people huddled around bonfires on shore. In Portland, there are two fleets, one on the Columbia River and one on the Willamette.

Town Hall with holiday decorations, Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium (© Magic Monkey/Courtesy of

Sparkling Holiday Lights: Brussels

The magnificent Gothic Brussels Town Hall, built in the early 1400s, is aglow with lights each holiday season. The Grand Place — or town square — in front of the town hall fills with onlookers each evening for the sound-and-light show that illuminates the building.

National Christmas Tree in front of the White House, Washington, D.C. (© Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sparkling Holiday Lights: National Tree, Washington D.C.

President Calvin Coolidge presided over the first ever Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the White House in 1923, and today the President and First Family continue the honors. The Colorado blue spruce has been growing at the White House for 46 years, a donation from a family in York, Pa. It stands 42 feet tall and has become a treasured part of the nation's holiday celebration.

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