How Cities Around the World Use Public Space to Celebrate the Holidays

To celebrate the holidays, cities close down streets for pedestrians, open markets, and hold parades in public spaces. Photo by Ted Eytan/Flickr

For cities, holidays signal a transformation in atmosphere. Street lights change colors, decorations are hung, and festivals turn sleepy downtowns into largescale celebrations for locals. Just as families and individuals adorn their homes with ornaments and trimmings, cities use their public space to welcome the end of the year and local holidays.

As festivities make clear, public spaces in cities have countless benefits: they connect local residents, act as a place to hold community events and offer a place of serenity in a busy urban environment. These areas are vital for preserving the local culture in cities and can bring communities together throughout the year, especially during the holidays. Below are some ways cities across the globe transform for the holidays:

Holiday Markets

Every winter, crowds flock to Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark to celebrate the holiday season. The market hosts a Christmas lightshow, lighting up the skies three times per hour every night. Residents and visitors alike enjoy the Christmas-themed fireworks and enjoy a Danish sense of hygge.

Tivoli Gardens. Photo by Chad Kainz/Flickr

France’s oldest market, Christkindlesmarik, is a staple of the holiday season in the city of Strasbourg. The city, coined as the “Capital of Christmas,” is home to four different holiday markets, though Christkindlesmarik is the largest and most well-known. More than two million visitors attend the market, enjoying the sites and sounds of the holiday festivities.

Held since the mid-1500s, the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany is one of the oldest holiday markets in the country. The city of nearly a half million residents hosts the market each year, electing a Christkind (a speaker) to open the market. The market is filled with food and drink options, shopping and concerts.

New Year’s Eve

Each year on December 31st, the streets of Rio de Janeiro are filled with people celebrating the new year. It’s traditional in Brazil to wear white clothing on New Year’s Eve, to attract peace and happiness in the year to come. Underneath, many wear bright colors representative of their resolutions. Some even travel to Copacabana Beach to ring in the New Year by the ocean and celebrate on the beach.

Rio de Janeiro New Years. Photo by PortoBay Events/Flickr

In São Paulo, the city closes Avenida Paulista (a major street) to cars, opening the street up for more than two million pedestrians to celebrate together in the city. By putting people before cars, crowds are able to bring in the New Year together and find a common space in the city to celebrate.

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is held every year in either January or February. The holiday has a long history and has transformed over the years—originally focusing on religious beliefs, the festival is now a more family-focused event.

Chinese New Year in Beijing. Photo by Frank Yu/Flickr

Cities play an important role in continuing the traditions of the Spring Festival and sharing the local culture with visitors. In Beijing, temple fairs are held, filled with performances, local art and traditional Chinese cuisine. The public spaces in the city are vital during the Festival, allowing people from China and beyond to experience the rich history of the holiday. To keep the tradition alive and healthy, the city works to keep pollution levels low, make sure the cities are well-connected and maintain the public spaces.

Regardless of the holiday or the location, these celebrations have one thing in common: they highlight the importance of having public spaces throughout cities. By dedicating more space to residents and visitors, cities encourage their local culture to thrive and create tight-knit communities.

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