‘Driving Home for Christmas’ is my favourite holiday song. I just love the idea of travelling on the holidays, leaving work early, and making it through snowy nights lit only by Christmas lights, to reach a cosy home. Perhaps it’s this romantic view of festive travel that makes me a keen airport decorations spotter and connoisseur.
This is not a view shared by many of my friends who can’t stand the Christmas crush and the queues, entertaining the kids through the airport, negotiating last minute shopping guilt, and dealing with staff who, let’s face it, would rather be snuggled up with mulled wine by the fire like everyone else – but I love a good romp through the airport Christmas lights and streamers, fake snow and Santa’s grottos, on my way to visit family or friends at Christmas.
As an international student and obsessive traveller, I’ve been through my fair share of airports on the holidays. Apparently it’s not something people usually notice, but for me it’s a travel highlight to compare the different displays and attractions at international airports. Flying just feels that much more exciting when it’s festive flying!
Although I won’t be flying through there this year, Changi Airport in Singapore never fails to disappoint, and this year’s display is by all accounts right up to standard. A Christmas Angry Birds display, featuring a gigantic Angry Bird spaceship, which launches – complete with rocket effects and smoke – is the centrepiece of this year’s Christmas decorations. The beauty of Changi’s Christmas lights and shows is that they never forget to aim at impressing the kids. Trampolines, grottos, space cafes, mini musicals and toy giveaways, guarantee happy little elves on their way to fly and remind the adults that the holidays are a time for family, even before you’ve flown home.
Ninoy Aquino in the Philippines and Zurich, Switzerland are perhaps on the other end of the spectrum, with understated winter wonderland elegance at the heart of the displays. Of course, the main advantage of airports for festive decorations lovers everywhere is the vast space and high ceilings available to designers. This means that sophisticated displays are set off perfectly by towering Christmas trees, dressed in swish gold and red and silver.
Alternatively, airport teams take risks on more fun and child-focused trees. So at Terminal Five of Heathrow Airport, London, UK, a team spent 376 hours creating a gingerbread tree. Taking the Swedish-inspired tradition of constructing Christmas houses made of gingerbread and sweets, which children bake and build every year in the holidays, the design brings kids back to the centre of Christmas decorations, which creates a magical atmosphere and keeps some difficult of the airport’s most tricky to please customers happy!
Whether it’s Beirut or Boston, airports that enter into the festive spirit, really set off the holiday mood and make travelling home for Christmas an experience to look forward to as winter draws in. And that’s a bonus for everyone flying on the holidays – not just obsessive decorations fans like me.