The famous Gubbio Christmas Tree, a display known as the biggest Christmas tree in the world, can be seen in the province of Perugia, Umbria, Italy.

The famous Gubbio Christmas Tree, a display known as the biggest Christmas tree in the world, can be seen in the province of Perugia, Umbria, Italy. (iStock)

It’s always fun to visit a place or thing that claims to be the biggest or the best in its class. With so many Christmas markets and events to choose from this month, it’s only natural that event organizers should search for something superlative to say. Why not enjoy the bragging rights gained from visiting one of these places, each with its own specific claim to fame?

Nuremberg, Germany: World’s largest punch bowl

Among those special words that fail to translate from their original tongue is the German term “Feuerzangenbowle.” “Fire tongs punch” is the word for a red wine-based hot drink to which spice and citrus peel is added. Above the cauldron in which this concoction simmers, a rum-drenched hunk of sugar is held in place by tongs. When set alight, the alcohol-drenched sugar caramelizes and drips slowly into the cauldron, adding yet more punch to the punch. While it’s possible to sample this drink at most larger markets throughout Germany, imbibing it from the world’s largest vessel for such — an 11-foot-high pot holding 2,337 gallons of the intoxicating brew — takes place on the edge of the Nuremberg Christmas Market. This temporary locale at “An der Fleischbrücke” is open daily through December 31. Online:

London, UK: World’s largest transportable rides

What began back in 2005 as a small fun fair on the edge of Hyde Park has since grown into a behemoth of a seasonal event, with markets, live shows, an ice bar, skating rink and much more. Rides also feature heavily into its offerings, including two -ests: The Munich Looping, the world’s largest transportable roller coaster, and The Giant Wheel, the world’s tallest transportable wheel. The coaster, which also makes an appearance at Oktoberfest, features five sky-high, breathtaking loops, while the Ferris wheel whisks its passengers 225 feet up in the air for stunning views above the city skyline. A single adult ride on the coaster costs 10 UK pounds ($12.60), whereas a turn on the wheel goes for 8 - 11 UK pounds, depending on the time and day of the week. Entry fees to Winter Wonderland itself range from free to 7.50 UK pounds, depending on the time of visit. Online:

Wiesbaden, Germany: The country’s largest mobile ice rink

The green space in front of Wiesbaden’s splendid Kurhaus, known as the Bowling Green, is the site of fairs, concerts, auto exhibitions and a slew of other events. Through Jan. 14, this swanky piece of real estate takes on a new role as home to Germany’s largest mobile ice rink. Transparent glass barriers surrounding the skating surface allow spectators seated or gathered around one of the area’s 10 restaurants to take in the skating action. A handful of special events, from an ice hockey training session to a visit from the Christkind, are sure to make a trip to the rink all the more special. Those who love watching figure skating will have their day on Dec. 22, when two shows, choreographed specifically to the space, will be offered.

Those without skates of their own can rent a pair on site. Tickets for a session on the ice start at 8 euros for adults and 5 euros for those under 12. Due to anticipated high demand, booking a time slot in advance wouldn’t be a bad idea. Online:

Gubbio, Italy: The world’s biggest Christmas tree

The medieval town of Gubbio, in the region of Umbria in central Italy, is known, particularly to those of the Catholic faith, for its connection to Saint Francis of Assisi. It was here, legend holds, that he encountered and tamed a wolf. The town’s position at the base of Mount Ignino lends itself well to using the mountain’s slope as the canvas to what its founders refer to as the world’s biggest Christmas tree.

Not really a tree at all, it’s a light installation made up of more than 300 green lights creating the outline of a Christmas tree. Its inner area is covered with hundreds of multi-colored lights and topped by a large star. The roots of the tree appear to rise up from the old city walls, while the star nestles atop the basilica dedicated to St. Ubaldo. In exchange for a small donation, patrons can “adopt” one of the lights of the tree and dedicate it to whomever they wish. The “tree” is illuminated nightly until the holiday of Epiphany on January 6. Online:

Greccio, Italy: The first living nativity scene

Saint Francis of Assisi is also closely connected to another phenomenon found scattered throughout Italy. Presepe Vivente, more commonly known as Living Nativity Scenes, refers to the staging of the scene and circumstances of Christ’s humble birth in Bethlehem. Replete with reenactors in period costumes and livestock, such pageants help focus attention on the original spirit of the season.

Saint Francis is thought to have staged the first living nativity scene back in 1223 in the town of Greccio, using animals and local villagers dressed as shepherds and angels as the backdrop to his sermons emphasizing the message of peace on earth and goodwill to men. Places where such reenactments can be witnessed include Matera, San Biagio, Dogliani, Villaga and Custonaci, along with Greccio itself.

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