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10 Festive Christmas Markets From Around the World

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Even if you’ve already done all your holiday shopping—and especially if you haven’t—a visit to one of these Christmas markets is the perfect seasonal activity.

1. STRIEZELMARKT // DRESDEN, GERMANY 

Now in its 581st year, Germany’s oldest Christmas Market welcomes over 2.5 million people to Altmarkt Square annually. It first opened as a meat market in 1434, but these days, the focus has shifted to bread. If you go, make sure to pick up a loaf of stollen or striezel, the fruit bread that gives the market its name, and check out the nearly 48-foot-tall Christmas pyramid.

2. FRANKFURT CHRISTMAS MARKET // BIRMINGHAM, UK

Britons with a taste for stollen don’t have to go to Germany to get their fix. Calling itself the "largest authentic German market outside of Germany and Austria,” the Frankfurt Christmas Market has brought traditional treats to central England for over a decade. But while the atmosphere is German, the stalls feature many gifts and crafts that are locally made.

3. STRASBOURG CHRISTMAS MARKET // STRASBOURG, FRANCE

The self-proclaimed “Capital of Christmas” is home to a holiday market voted the best in Europe for the second straight year in 2015. The market dates back to 1570, when the first Christkindelsmärik (market of the Infant Jesus) was held. Each year, among the 300 stalls spread around 12 locations in the city, Strasbourg hosts a guest country; this year, the market will feature vendors from Luxembourg.

4. GREAT DICKENS CHRISTMAS FAIR // SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

Four authentic English pubs and the Bohemian Absinthe Bar serve up fine glasses of Christmas cheer at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party. (photo by Rich Yee)

Posted by The Great Dickens Christmas Fair on Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Bay Area tradition for 35 years, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair brings the spirit of Victorian London to San Francisco in the form of 120,000 square feet of music halls, pubs, dance floors, and shops. Costumes are encouraged, but not required.

5. TIVOLI GARDENS' CHRISTMAS MARKET // COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

The famous amusement park gets an extra dose of cheer each holiday season thanks to 800,000 fairy lights and a Christmas market that has attracted over a million visitors annually since it first opened in 1994. Hungry shoppers can indulge in pickled herring, meatballs, cheese, rice pudding, and other dishes served as part of the traditional Danish julefrokost, or Christmas lunch.  

6. CHRISTKINDLESMARKT // NUREMBERG, GERMANY

Arguably the most famous Christmas market in the world, Christkindlesmarkt welcomes close to two million visitors each year. The city prides itself on the market's history, which dates back to 1628. (Some of the wooden stalls are more than 100 years old.) The traditional food is one of the highlights of the market— Nürnberger lebkuchen (gingerbread), grilled sausages, and glühwein (mulled wine)—as are the 20 or so “sister cities” markets full of international wares.

7. VIENNA CHRISTMAS MARKETS // VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Vienna itself is practically one giant Christmas market from mid-November through the end of the year. Almost a dozen squares around the city host mini markets, each with its own distinct atmosphere. Rathausplatz, in front of the town hall, is the largest and most varied, and boasts a stunning carousel for visiting families. The Christmas village in the Old AKH has two curling lanes set up amid the shopping, while the winter market on Riesenradplatz features live entertainment all month.

8. HYDE PARK WINTER WONDERLAND // LONDON, UK

Home to the largest outdoor ice skating rink in the United Kingdom, this winter wonderland is more than just a Christmas market. There’s a Santa handing out presents, impressive ice sculptures, a circus show, as well as a Bavarian-style village where you can find traditional food and gift offerings.

9. TALLIN CHRISTMAS MARKET // TALLINN, ESTONIA

Estonia’s capital—which some say was home to the world's first Christmas tree—features a popular Christmas market, generally held in the city's medieval Town Square. There, you can sample traditional Estonian fare like blood pudding, take in the ice sculptures, and enjoy performances by singers and dancers from all across Estonia. There’s even a mini-zoo featuring rabbits, goats, lambs, ponies, and more.

10. FIRA DE SANTA LLÚCIA // BARCELONA, SPAIN 

What originated as a feast for St. Llúcia in the 1700s has morphed into a three-week-long Christmas market that specializes in seasonal items like Christmas trees, poinsettias, and nativity scenes featuring cheeky Catalan caganer figurines. Whereas most Christmas markets serve Bavarian food, everything dished up here is classic Spanish fare.

All photos courtesy of Getty Images unless otherwise noted.

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8 Awesome Halloween Displays From Around the Country

Looking for some Halloween decorating inspiration? Look no further than these spooky displays. From New Mexico to New York, here are eight creepy homes worth going out of your way for each All Hallows' Eve.

1. THE PUMPKIN HOUSE IN KENOVA, WEST VIRGINIA

C-K AutumnFest—an annual fall festival thrown by the West Virginia towns of Kenova and Ceredo—offers scarecrow-building contests, tractor shows, and home-canning competitions, among other activities. Its highlight, however, is probably the Pumpkin House. The historic Victorian abode once belonged to IRS commissioner Joseph S. Miller, a friend of President Grover Cleveland. But when Ric Griffith moved in, he put it on the map with elaborate jack-o'-lantern displays.

Each year, in late October, the onetime Kenova mayor festoons the home’s yard, porch, rooftops, and gables with 3000 glowing pumpkins, some of which sit on specially built displays with music and lights. The laborious project begins in earnest around a month before Halloween, when Miller and his daughter start drawing faces on the gourds. Then, around five days before AutumnFest kicks off, local volunteers help the duo scoop, carve, rinse, and arrange the jack-o'-lanterns into tiered rows around the house and yard.

You can check out the Pumpkin House in person at this year’s festival, which runs October 27-28. “Due to the shelf life of a carved pumpkin, carving will not begin until October 23,” organizer Kim Layman tells Mental Floss. “Once the pumpkins are carved and set into place, they remain lit 24/7. The best time to see the greatest number of pumpkins lit is the weekend of AutumnFest. Weather permitting, the pumpkins will remain lit through Halloween.”

2. DANIEL'S HALLOWEEN HOUSE OF WARWICK IN WARWICK, RHODE ISLAND

The annual Halloween display at 69 Darrow Drive in Warwick, Rhode Island is so over-the-top that it has its own Facebook page for local fans. Past iterations have featured Halloween props designed by homeowner Mike Daniels, spooky interactive figures, and multi-colored lights synchronized to more than 14 songs. This year’s clown-themed yard show won’t be complete until around mid-October, but there will be “new designs and props and music,” Daniels tells Mental Floss. “We’ve added some awesome new stuff!”

Proving that Halloween isn’t always about tricks and/or treats, Daniels typically leaves out a bin for charitable donations. This Halloween, the collection will be donated to the Spirit of Children hospital foundation, which funds art, music, and other therapeutic projects for children receiving medical care.

3. “OPERATION: SCARE ‘N SHARE” IN WELLS, MAINE

In 2006, Stanley Norton of Wells, Maine, began competing with his brother to see who could build the best Christmas light show. The winner gained bragging rights, and the loser was required to hang a portrait of their sibling in their home with the words “I wish I was my brother” underneath. Norton got so into the challenge that eventually, the satisfaction of beating his brother was no longer enough. About two years after the inaugural lights contest, he also began regularly decorating his home for Halloween, an endeavor he’s since dubbed “OPERATION: Scare ‘N Share.”

Norton’s annual display runs the week before Halloween, and features spooky props and thousands of lights synced to radio music. (They're erected with help from the local Wells Soccer team, which Norton used to coach.) The tunes and lights change each year, but visitors are always asked to bring canned goods to donate to a local food pantry. In 2015, Norton’s Halloween house had so many visitors that they collected close to 1000 pounds of food.

4. THE CUNNINGHAM HAUNT HOUSE IN FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO

When a prospective career in the haunted house industry didn’t work out for him, Darrell Cunningham, a software programmer in Farmington, New Mexico, decided to turn his passion into a hobby by decorating his own home for Halloween. The project soon morphed into an ongoing tradition that's now six or so years running.

Today, Cunningham, with help from his father, constructs elaborate Halloween displays at his parents’ more spacious abode. The Cunningham Haunt House, as it’s called, features handmade props that Cunningham builds himself. (They've included grim reaper, witch, and angel statues fashioned from chicken wire, plastic pipes, paper mâché, and "monster mud," a special mixture of paint and drywall compound.) There are also plenty of spider webs and fake tombstones, as well as projectors that play music videos like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller."

Since Halloween props are expensive, the father-and-son duo is always soliciting either online cash donations or crafting materials—“decorations, webs, pumpkins, wagons light posts, poles, wood, anything that could make cool props,” according to the Cunningham Haunt House’s Facebook page.

5. 84 MAIN STREET, CAMILLUS, NEW YORK

Trick-or-treaters in the greater Syracuse, New York region visit the town of Camillus to admire (and score candy from) Mickie and Bill Hendrix’s house on 84 Main Street. The homeowners are fans of classic horror films, so each October they transform their residence into a spine-tingling attraction complete with a fog machine, orchestral music, a giant barrel of "toxic waste" that pumps out green goo, and life-sized figures of skeletons, clowns, mummies, and vampires.

The display surrounds the house, and trick-or-treaters are forced to navigate their way through a sea of monsters and ghouls to receive candy at the back door. There, they're greeted by jumping motion-sensor creatures. (Some kids are too scared to come to the door, in which case Mickie Hendrix will toss candy out the window, or go downstairs and hand it to them personally.)

The couple have been decorating their home for more than 16 years. "It started out small and just got bigger and bigger," Mickie Hendrix told Syracuse.com. "It's getting out of control and we're getting older. Thank God for our grandchildren. They helped us get everything out." However, the display might be in its final years, as the couple is planning to eventually move to Florida.

6. TERROR ON TILLSON IN ROMEO, MICHIGAN

Halloween is a community affair in Romeo, a tiny 19th century village in Macomb County, Michigan, where residents transform a single two-block street into a spooky wonderland each October.

It’s said that the seasonal spectacle on Tillson Street began with longtime homeowner Vicki Lee, whose birthday falls on Halloween. To celebrate the occasion, she always decorated her home with pumpkins, corn stalks, and scarecrows. Her enthusiasm for the holiday spread, and as more families with young children moved into the area, other neighbors began building handmade Halloween scenes in their own front yards. Ultimately, around 30 homes joined in on the fun, resulting in the street-wide affair that the village knows and loves today.

Today, an estimated 80,000 visitors are said to visit Tillson Street each year to experience the spectacle—nicknamed Terror on Tillson—for themselves. On Halloween, the street is blocked off so kids can safely trick-or-treat under the watchful eye of a makeshift security team of high school athletes. (In a separate event, Tillson Street residents also team up with the Kids Kicking Cancer organization to provide a safe daytime trick-or-treating event for around 50 children with cancer.)

Terror on Tillson has become so famous that it’s spawned souvenir T-shirts, a neighborhood cookbook, a food drive, and a scholarship fund dedicated to Lee’s late husband, Buzz Lee, who passed away from a brain tumor in 2002. Paying the street a visit, however, is always free of charge.

For more information, visit Terror on Tillson’s official website.

7. EDWARDS LANDING LIGHTS IN LEESBURG, VIRGINIA

For the past seven years, Brandon Bullis of Leesburg, Virginia has created a musical Halloween light show, covering the front of his house with thousands of lights that are synced to blink along with popular tunes. Past examples include Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” “Handclap” by Fitz and the Tantrums, and "The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)” by Norwegian electronic group Ylvis, the last of which caused the home to go viral in 2013.

The show—which Bullis has branded “Edwards Landing Lights”—is technically silent, but viewers can listen to its tunes by turning on their car’s radio. They can also add money to a driveway donation box, the proceeds of which are donated to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

To see Edwards Landing Lights in person, drive along Woods Edge Drive Northeast in Leesburg, Virginia after dark.

8. EAST 30TH STREET AND TACOMA AVENUE IN LORAIN, OHIO

Ricky Rodriguez constructs Halloween displays that look like movie sets. In 2013, the Lorain, Ohio resident teamed up with his brother Tony to built a giant two-story pirate ship, designed to look like it was crashing through the side of his home. The pirate ship returned to East 30th Street and Tacoma Avenue in 2014 (and presumably 2015), but last year, Rodriguez replaced the vessel with a fabricated steam-powered locomotive, inspired by the final scene of Back to the Future Part III.

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12 Halloween Traditions From Around the World
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Although most Americans spend Halloween dressing up and trick-or-treating, other countries have their own celebratory rituals. Here are 12 Halloween (and Halloween-like) traditions from around the world.

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