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How to Have a COVID-Safe Holiday Season: A Travelers’ Guide

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Family celebrating Christmas dinner during the Holiday Season.

Millions of people travel during the holidays. At this time of the year, some travelers fly long distances to spend time with their family and loved ones. Others choose to visit spiritually significant locations, such as Israel or the Vatican.

Nevertheless, this holiday season COVID remains a concern, along with other respiratory diseases.

Planning a holiday trip? Regardless of where you’ll go, this post is for you.
Today, we’ll share some travel tips that will help you have a safe holiday season.

We’ll cover:

  • What to do during Hanukkah in Israel
  • Israel’s current COVID restrictions
  • What to do during a Christmas visit to the Vatican
  • Relevant COVID restrictions for visitors to the Vatican
  • Up-to-date COVID safety tips

Ready? Let’s go!

Travel Tips for Hanukkah in Israel

Hanukkah is a widely celebrated and iconic festivity in Israel, with many symbolic events, customs, and traditional foods.

Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration of hope and freedom. This year, Hanukkah will take place during December 18-26. Yes, Hanukkah overlaps with Christmas.

In this section, we’ll share:

  • What you can do during Hanukkah in Israel
  • Israel travel requirements

What to Do During Hanukkah in Israel

During the Festival of Lights, there are numerous events and activities taking place throughout Israel. Every village and town hosts its local celebrations.

However, these cities can be highlighted as especially noteworthy:

  • Haifa and Safed, in Northern Israel
  • Tel Aviv
  • Jerusalem

Northern Israel

When it comes to Northern Israel, the major Hannukah events happen in the cities of Haifa and Safed.
Here are some events you might want to visit:

  • Holiday of Holidays, Haifa. This festival offers multiple activities to celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, and Ramadan. Including concerts, and street performances. And don’t forget to visit the food stands!
  • Museum of edible oil production, Haifa.
  • Hanukkah candle tour, Safed. A night tour of the Old Jewish Quarter. You can experience Hanukkah’s traditions, light candles, and listen to Hanukkah stories.
  • Safed’s old city dairy workshops. Considering that eating dairy products is a tradition during Hanukkah, here you can sample sheep and goat milk products and learn about cheese-making.
  • Livnot U’Lehibanot community center, Safed. Here, you can find multiple activities including storytimes, music, and tours of 16th-century excavations.

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital. And as such, it offers a wide range of events and activities to participate in during Hanukkah.

We recommend you:

  • Attend a public Menorah Lighting. Independence Park is a great place to do so. On the first night of Hanukkah, you’ll also find live music, activities, and more.
  • Try Sufganiyot at Roladin, a renowned bakery chain
  • Go to a museum, as many will be holding holiday activities for the whole family.

Jerusalem

Hanukkah is one of the best times to be in Jerusalem, some may even consider it magical.

Here are some of the best things you can do during Hanukkah in the city:

  • Book a Hanukkah tour
  • Walk in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, you’ll see Menorahs everywhere around you.
  • Attend the Kotel Menorah Lighting, which will take place at 4.30 p.m. every day.
  • Visit a Museum, many will offer special Hannukah events and activities. For example The Israel Museum, The Tower of David, and more.

Moreover, don’t forget to give seasonal foods a try! It’s customary for these foods to be fried in oil to commemorate the miracle of Hanukkah when a very small amount of oil unexpectedly lasted for eight days.

You might want to try:

  • Sufganiyot (aka doughnuts). Bakeries take this celebration to a whole new level with special flavors.
  • Latkes, traditional potato pancakes.
  • Krembo, a dessert that consists of a cookie base, a marshmallow-like meringue mixture layered high on top and covered with chocolate.
  • Sachlav, is a creamy and aromatic Arabic beverage.

Israel Travel Requirements

Good news! There are no longer any travel restrictions to visit Israel. Inbound travelers won’t have to:

  • Present a vaccination certificate. In fact, everyone, regardless of their vaccination status, can enter the country.
  • Get tested before or after their flight. The same applies to land borders and cruises.
  • Isolate or quarantine upon arrival.

Plus, currently, there are no countries on Israel’s Red List. So people from all countries can enter Israel and enjoy the magic of Hanukkah.

Christmas at the Vatican

The Vatican is pretty popular for its celebrations during Christmas time. In fact, Christmas at the Vatican is a magical 21-day event, full of carols, lively masses, beautiful markets, and exquisitely decorated Christmas trees. The Christmas season starts on December 8th and finishes on January 6th.

St. Peter’s Square features a different Nativity scene every year. This nativity scene is curated by world-class artists. Plus, every year there’s a Christmas concert called Concerto di Natale, featuring internationally renowned musicians. This year, the concert will take place at the Auditorium Conciliazione on December 17.

Fun fact: Vatican City (and Italy) also have its own Santa Claus called la Befana, a witch who travels on her broomstick and brings gifts to children.

But there’s an event that grabs every traveler’s attention: The midnight mass with the Pope on Christmas Eve. And it’s not hard to see why, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. However, although it’s called the midnight mass, the event starts at 7.30 PM. The mass takes place at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Some key information you need to know:

  • Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel will be closed on the 25th and 26th of December.
  • Since the COVID pandemic, you can only visit the Vatican Museums if you book your ticket online. Visitors can no longer queue and get tickets on the spot. Moreover, you must be mindful of your entry time to preserve social distancing.
  • For the midnight mass, you need to book your ticket in advance, tickets are free of charge but also limited.
  • Consider that there are fewer taxis and buses during Christmas eve, so you may end up walking to your hotel.

Vatican City Travel Requirements

Vatican City’s travel restrictions are aligned with Italy’s.

As of this writing, travelers don’t have to quarantine or get tested upon arriving in Italy. Vaccination isn’t required either.

You may be required to wear a mask indoors in some cases. So, it’s always wise to ask.

Italy is currently welcoming travelers from all over the world. So, regardless of where you come from, you can experience the unique Christmas spirit in Vatican City.

Key Takeaways & Easy Tips to Have a Safe Holiday Season

Millions of people look forward to the holidays every year. It’s no wonder, the season is full of moving events, family time, and amazing food.

However, attending multiple gatherings can easily expose you to COVID.

Hence, we advise you:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Maintain social distance, whenever possible and especially in crowded areas.
  • Wear a face mask indoors.
  • Get tested before, and after your flight, and before meeting those with a high risk of severe infection.

Want to get tested for the holiday season? No matter where you are, or what type of test you need, find testing locations near you with our global directory.

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