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The Independent Travel
London

3 Dec

On this date in 1697, Sir Christopher Wren started work on a new St Paul's cathedral (right), as the original structure had been damaged in the Great Fire. To markits 300th birthday, a service of thanksgiving will be held at 11am and will be attended by the Queen and many other dignitaries.

Japan

3 Dec

The Chichibu Yo-matsuri is one of Japan's grandest float festivals, where six lavishly adorned and lantern-lit floats assemble at the Chichibu Shrine around 7pm and then parade through the streets. The night comes to a fitting climax as the skies above Chichibu city spangle into a massive firework display.

Italy

6 Dec

The southern town of Bari holds its annual Feast of San Nicola, a seasonal melange of religious rituals and folk festivities held in honour of the man whom we know as Father Christmas. History states that the saint's remains were stolen from Turkey in 1087 and laid to rest in the crypt of Bari's main church, the Basilica di San Nicola. His tomb now apparently exudes gallons of miraculous brown goo known to the locals as manna. It seems odd that when most Europeans get stockings, Santa rewards the Barese with something akin to droppings.

Alaska

6-7 Dec

The town of Talkeetna plays host to the dubious Wilderness Woman Competition, which sees its unmarried participants competing in a variety of typical wintry pastimes such as snowmobiling through an obstacle course, chopping wood and cooking a hearty stew. The winner is the first to complete all the tasks and then deliver a sandwich and beer to some unhelpful male couch potato watching football on the telly. Needless to say this chauvinistic showdown is sponsored by the Talkeetna Bachelor Society.

Austria

6-7 Dec

On the Sunday nearest to the feast of Santa Barbara, the custom of the Ledersprung (jumping over leather) is celebrated annually at the University of Mining in Leoben. Apparently Barbara, not Arthur, is the patron saint of miners and the leather referred to was once part of the traditional outfit of the miner.

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