From ice in New York to New Year's fire in Sydney

FRANCE

FRANCE

2-4 December, Trans-Musicales Festival, Rennes

Providing an antidote to Christmas carols is the Trans-Musicales Festival, which this year brings the likes of Kraftwerk and The Beastie Boys to the Parc Expo in eastern Brittany. Also on the bill are Dizzee Rascal and a number of artists from France, Belgium, Germany and beyond. The festival has been running since 1979, when it was launched to defend alternative music from the rise of pop. In addition there will be various art projects taking place, produced by the young people of Rennes.

Tickets cost €30 (£21.40) and are now available for Thursday and Saturday only.

Further information: 00 33 2 99 31 12 10; www.lestrans.com

ST LUCIA

13 December, Festival of Lights and Renewal, nationwide

The Festival of Lights is held every year to commemorate St Lucia's National Day and incorporates Christmas celebrations with a folk festival and various events around the island. The festivities extend throughout the month but the focus is St Lucia's National Day, 13 December, when a lantern-making competition is held and towns are decorated with lights. Other festivities include a blindfolded boxing competition and a contest to catch a greasy pig. The celebrations are the island's second-biggest event of the year and are timed to coincide with the date the island is believed to have been discovered. The biggest festivities are held in Castries.

Further information: 0870 900 7697; www.stlucia.org

RUSSIA

25 December-5 January, Moscow Winter Festival

Orthodox Christmas isn't celebrated until 7 January but in Russia the Winter Festival, which lasts from 25 December-5 January, offers 12 days of spirited festivities in Moscow, St Petersburg, Vladimir and Novgorod. There will be folkloric shows, vodka tastings, horse-drawn sleigh rides and music, as well as women dressed as characters from Russian mythology. The Moscow festival is the country's most popular event of its type, and draws crowds in their thousands who defy the bitter cold and celebrate with plenty of vodka. The pinnacle of the festival is New Year's Eve, which has gained in significance since the 1917 revolution when the religious celebration of Christmas was replaced by the Winter Festival and the Christmas tree replaced by the New Year tree. Expect fireworks, street parties and revelry until dawn. The festival takes place in Izmailovo Park and entry is free.

Further information: 007 095 208 2937; www.russia-travel.com

AUSTRALIA

31 December-1 January, New Year's Eve, Sydney Harbour

Celebrate New Year's Eve in style. Sydney's celebrations rank among the most colourful in the world, and because of Australia's time zone it is the first major world city to kick off celebrations. Around one million visitors flock to the harbour each year, where the world's biggest firework display takes place, but there's also plenty of free entertainment ranging from street performers and rides to a procession of decorated sailing vessels in the harbour. There are also shows for children, live music, and outdoor screens all over the city on which anybody not close enough to the action can watch the events unfold. Firework displays take place at about 9pm and at midnight, and after the official events draw to a close at about 1.30am you can expect local celebrations to carry on into the night.

Further information: 09068 633 235, calls charged at 60p per minute; www.sydneynewyearseve.com.au

TURKEY

10-17 December, Whirling Dervishes Festival, Konya

Around one million visitors descend on Konya in central Anatolia each December for the Whirling Dervishes Festival. The festival is held to commemorate the death of Mevlana Rumi at his mausoleum and dates back to the 13th century. Mevlana believed that one could reach a union with god through dancing, thus inspiring the tradition of the Whirling Dervishes, known locally as the Mevlevi Order. The dances form part of a religious ceremony that enables the dancer to enter a trance, thereby taking him closer to god. The festival has become a tourist spectacle and dances are performed throughout the week at Mevlana's mausoleum and around the town.

Further information: 020-7355 4207; www.gototurkey.co.uk

USA

Until 8 April 2005, Rockefeller Centre Ice Rink, New York

OK, so you've seen it in the movies, but nothing beats soaking up the atmosphere at one of the world's most recognised outdoor ice rinks in the middle of New York. Skaters can also marvel at the 71ft-tall Christmas tree covered in more than 25,000 lights and adorned with a Swarovski crystal-encrusted star (the official tree-lighting takes place on 30 November). The rink first opened on Christmas Day in 1936 in the midst of the Depression, and now draws crowds in their thousands each season, although it can only take 150 skaters at a time.

It opens daily from 8.30am until midnight. Skate rental is $8 (£4.70) per person and admission is $12 (£7) for adults and $10 (£6) for children under 12.

Further information: 001 212 332 7654; www.rockefellercenter.com

Comments