Tag Archives: christmas

Holiday Hours, Open House + Hot Cocoa Recipes


Wishing you a Happy Holidays from Everyone here at Willamette Intl Travel!

Special Holiday Hours

Friday, December 23: Open 8am to 1pm.
Monday, December 26: Office is closed.
Friday, December 30: Open 8am to 3:30pm.
Monday, January 2: Office is closed.

Emergency Assistance: If you have booked a trip through Willamette Intl Travel and have an emergency, call 503-224-0180 for our 24/7 assistance.

Holiday Open House

We’re hosting a holiday open house at our office!

We hope you’ll come by to meet us in person! There will be refreshments throughout the day. Everyone stopping by will receive a gift as well as the chance to win a $250 gift certificate from Delta Vacations, along with a piece of luggage! All staff will be there—you can meet our new staff members, and let us “originals” thank you personally for being so supportive for over 39 years. Several of our preferred vendors will also be dropping in, so you may have the pleasure of meeting the faces “behind the brochures.” Who knows, this may become a tradition for our next 40 years!


3 Hot Chocolate Recipes Around the World

Feeling cozy this Holiday Season? Here are a few of our favorite atypical hot chocolate recipes around the World:

Hungarian Paprika Hot Chocolate
It wouldn’t be Hungarian without some paprika! We bet you haven’t tried this interesting recipe yet. Throw in some white pepper and smoked paprika and go to town.

4 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon smoked paprika or Hungarian hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
7 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

Heat saucepan on medium heat. Combine milk, paprika, white pepper, and cloves together. Head until almost boiling, then add the chocolate until its melted. Whisk to froth and serve.

Spicy Mayan Hot Chocolate
Central America is all about the piquant, and this spicy hot cocoa makes a delicious addition to the holiday table.

1 cup milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla
1 cinnamon stick
2 TB dark chocolate mix
2 TB chocolate chips
3 pitches cayenne paper

Add milk, vanilla, and cinnamon to a pot on medium heat. Whisk together until frothy and nearly boiling. Add hot cocoa mix and chocolate chips, and mix until dissolved.

Indian Chai Hot Chocolate
Chai is an Indian tea drink chock full of spices—so just imagine substituting tea for chocolate!

2 TB grated chocolate chips
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp  ground cardamom
1 whole clove
1 whole black peppercorn

Heat milk and water on stove, and whisk in spices. Bring slowly to a boil, whisking occasionally.
Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat and remove the clove and pepper.
Whisk more to foam. Remove from heat. Place TB of chocolate each into two mugs. Pour the liquid into the mugs and the chocolate and stir to dissolve.
Spoon a portion of the foam on top.

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Christmas in Europe

Christmas is a magical time in Europe, when cities bloom in soft lights and decorations abound along windows and roads. And it’s never too early to think about spending holidays with your loved ones  abroad. These three capitals know how to do Christmas right.


Christmas Market at Schonbrunn Palace, flickr CC Otto Schlappack


The weeks from late November to the end of the year transform Austria into a special wonderland. Charming Christmas Markets pop up in historic town centers, the smells of Glühwein (mulled wine) float through the air, and young and old taste their way through roasted chestnuts to yummy Christmas sweets. Be enchanted by the Kunstkammer, Vienna’s realm of overwhelming gold, bronze and ivory pieces—and don’t forget to stop by the Christmas Market just in front. Need inspiration for gifts? In Vienna’s city center, the elegant store Österreichische Werkstätten offers a wide selection of handmade products such as jewelry, glass design, furniture and accessories. The Museums Quartier in Vienna becomes synonymous with a different kind of Christmas atmosphere. Just think ice pavilions, artistic light installations, DJ sounds, ice curling rink, and fun Punch variations!

Two hours south of Vienna, the city of Graz also turns into one giant Christmas spectacular. Glowing decorations, a massive ice crib, and a gigantic Advent calendar projection are just the beginning. Did you know the carol Silent Night originated in the small village of Oberndorf near Salzburg. Visit the humble and most charming chapel where the story began.


Zagreb’s Ilica Street, flickr CC rom@nski photo


Christmas in Zagreb, Croatia, is a time of festivities and food. Stands crop up everywhere in the city, selling goodies and delicacies certain to delight. Wrap your fingers around a steaming cup of mulled wine, grab seasonal candies and take home some special wooden toys and ornaments as souvenirs. Often bands will set up to play a few traditional tunes under the frosty lights. In recent years, Croatia has seen a reemergence of open-air ice skating, and in December rinks are installed near the main train station and King Tomislav’s Square. It’s truly a magical time in Zagreb!


Christmas Market in Bratislava, Flickr CC fortysix_vie


The Slovakian capital of Bratislava’s many historic buildings are testaments to the country’s intriguing history. Travelers can tour the Old Town, with landmarks such as Roland Fountain and the Old Town Hall, and stop by an outdoor market to sample traditional dishes, such as grilled sheep cheese, dumplings and the Bratislavsky rozok, or sweet roll.

Chat with us about spending your holidays abroad. Call 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Travel by Holiday

Winter Holidays Around the World

A few weeks ago, the agents at Willamette Intl Travel teamed up with our friends at the Portland Floral Institute. We spent the evening weaving wreaths to benefit Our House, a local AIDS hospice. It got us in the mood and since then we’ve just been really excited about the winter holiday season!

So how about the rest of the world? How do cultures across the globe celebrate the wintry season? Today let’s take a look at how other countries or religions get in the spirit:

Bodhi (Dec 8) – Buddhism. Buddhists believe that Buddha achieved Enlightenment on this day. Many cultures celebrate this day differently, but modestly: studying the Dharma, eating cake and tea, or performing kind acts toward others. In Japan, Zen monks stay up the entire evening before meditating and studying sutras.

Photo by Scott skpy. Creative Commons.

Hanukkah (Dec 8-16) – Judaism. Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century b.c.e. Jews observe the holiday by lighting the menorah candelabrum—one candle on each of the eight holiday nights. Other common traditions during this time are the eating of latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts), the spinning of dreidals and gift-giving.

Saint Lucia Day (Dec 13) – Scandinavia. This is aScandinavian holiday honoring the Catholic Saint Lucia. St. Lucia (283-304 c.e.) is the patron saint of the blind, who died a martyr during the Diocletian persecution. On this day, one girl is elected to portray St. Lucia and dons a white gown, a red sash, and a crown of candles on her head. She leads a procession of similarly clad girls and sings a haunting melody known as Sankta Lucia.

Kwanzaa (Dec 26-Jan 1) – African American. Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration that honors African heritage in the United States. It was established in the 1960s as a means for African Americans to reconnect with their cultural heritage and celebrate the seven moral principles of unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Kwanzaa is often celebrated with a feast, gift-giving, libations, colorful decoration, the wearing of kaftans by women, and musical and dance performances.

Hogmanay Street Party in Dornoch, photo by John Haslam. Creative Commons.

Hogmanay (Dec 31) – Scotland. Hogmanay is the Scottish New Year’s, celebrated with traditions that stretch back centuries. Some historians believe that the festival was passed on from the Vikings’ celebration of yule. Traditionally, pieces of mistletoe, juniper and holly would be placed around the house to ward off mischievous spirits, and a rowan branch would be set above the door for luck. Nowadays, it is customary to clean one’s house to welcome in the New Year. Nighttime is a time of festivity, feasting, and socializing. The city of Edinburgh celebrates Hogmanay in style—with firework displays, a torchlight procession, and massive bonfires.

Saint Basil’s Day (Jan 1) – Greece. The celebration of St. Basil in Greece originates from the 4th century, during the time of Basil the Archibishop of Caesarea. According to tradition, Basil was a major establisher of the eastern monastic lifestyle, promoting community life, manual labor, liturgical prayer, and the care of the poor and underprivileged. On the evening of St. Basil’s Day, many Greek homes bake a special cake with a coin hidden inside. In the evening, just before midnight strikes, all the lights are turned off for a minute to signify the dawning of a new year. The cake is then cut: one slice for St. Basil, one for each family member, and the largest slice for all the poor people in the world.

There are of course many more winter celebrations, but too many for us to fit here! Want somewhere special to spend your winter weekends? How about the Triple Creek Ranch in Montana? See more details on our blog’s right sidebar or call us up for a chat!

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