While it may be marketed as the season of good cheer, Christmas is not the most wonderful time of year for everyone. Whether you find the non-stop caroling and festive decorations to be overwhelming, you're not in the mood to participate in any heated political debates with extended family members, or you're just not the religious type, we won't call you a Scrooge if you say you want to escape Christmas this year. However, as we know, the holiday has managed to spread beyond holy boundaries, making it tough to avoid. But if you really want to get away from it all, then it’s a challenge worth accepting. Start with these six places where Christmas is, in fact, nearly avoidable.
Laos is one of the world’s few remaining communist states and with Christians making up just about two percent of the country, Christmas isn’t a big deal. In fact, December 25 passes by like most other days. While cities like Vientiane and Luang Prabang might show signs of the holidays with subtle decoration, the country is mostly a place where you can easily forget the commercial nature of the season. Laos is also a poor country and while tourism is growing, it doesn’t attract the sort of numbers as two of its neighbors, Vietnam and Thailand, in which western traditions might be harder to escape. To avoid the trappings and excess of the season and reconnect with the world, opt for Luang Prabang. Here, you'll have no trouble replacing Christmas lights and gifts with Buddhist temples and mountainous spirituality.
Leave home behind and check into one of Morocco's stunning riads for the holidays. While the larger hotels in Marrakech might cater to tourists who want a festive reminder, more authentic riads are less likely to feature any signs of the Christian celebration -- it is a predominantly Muslim country, after all. We recommend Riad El Mansour, a beautiful, upscale riad that offers a traditional Moroccan experience. After exploring the old souks in the city, take off to the Atlas Mountains for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
Like Morocco, the Maldives is a Muslim country, which means Christmas gets short shrift. Some of the resorts might not be able to resist putting up decorations, but for the most part, you can convince yourself that Christmas is something that other people do far, far away. Take up residence in an overwater bungalow at the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa and spend the season being pampered rather than dealing with family fallouts. Most importantly, you’ll be guaranteed a white Christmas -- it might just come in the form of sand instead of snow.
The great thing about a getaway to Russia this time of year is that, depending on your stance, you can either miss Christmas Day or celebrate it twice. Because the Orthodox Russian Church follows the old Julian calendar for religious holidays, Russia's Christmas Day falls on January 7. So, whether you want to avoid the season’s big day all together or if you love Christmas so much you want to experience it again two weeks later, Russia is the place. And December 25 remains just an average day, aside from a few small Catholic celebrations. In other words, nothing will get in the way of visits to the Winter Palace, the Mariinsky Theatre (not for "The Nutcracker," obviously), and Palace Square in St. Petersburg.
If it’s not so much that you hate Christmas, and more that you just need some pampering, rest, and relaxation, then Thailand is the ideal place to escape. Between November and February, humidity levels drop, making Christmas an ideal time to visit. Thailand has no specific state religion, but the majority of its citizens practice either Buddhism or Hinduism, which means you’ll find Christmas conspicuous by its absence. To up your chances on avoiding all reminders of Christmas even more, skip Bangkok's bustle and head for Krabi Province in southern Thailand. Here, a stay at the luxurious Nakamanda Resort & Spa is a good way to relax and rejuvenate before the new year.
Given that it's not a Christian country, one might think that Japan has little connection to Christmas and you’d be right -- in a way. While the country doesn’t tend to celebrate the religious side of Christmas, the festive, gift-giving, and commercial elements can still be found in cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Even so, Christmas in Japan isn’t your average Christmas. Christmas Day is just like any other day in the year, and instead, Christmas Eve is the major celebration. And even then it’s not about family -- the focus is on romance, making it a great place to escape with your partner. If you want to avoid the typical commercial Christmas hullabaloo, skip the cities and retreat to a mountain resort like Hoshinoya Karuizawa for hot springs and hikes.