When I was 17 years old, I lost my Grandmother on Christmas Day so for me, the “magic of Christmas” had gone. I didn’t feel I could “celebrate” in the same way so over the years, I discovered that being away from the UK made me the happiest, plus, any excuse to have a holiday, right? I have since experienced Christmas in five different continents with both snow and sun. I love them both for different reasons, but one stood out for me the most … when I was 3ft deep in snow!
The cold isn’t for everyone …. so which do you think you would prefer?
Us Brits make up for the miserable weather by celebrating BIG style! Shops begin the run up to Christmas around October with the same Christmas tunes regurgitated year after year driving you craaaaazy! Houses and streets are illuminated and larger cities like London or Manchester hire a celebrity to “switch on the Christmas lights”. Theatres run pantomimes during December, children hold nativity plays at school and carol singing services are popular throughout the country.
My first Christmas away … Africa
My first ever Christmas overseas was in South Africa where it’s celebrated on 25th December due to their history with the UK. I was in Umhlanga Rocks just outside of Durban and, to be honest, it didn’t feel like Christmas at all. Maybe it’s because it’s a small place and maybe things have changed since my trip back in 1999 (check out this website for “Christmas around the world” it does appear to contradict what I experienced). There didn’t appear to be any tinsel or trees decorated with baubles, in fact quite a few shops and cafe’s were actually open on Christmas day but none of them were playing Christmas songs as we are generally used to in the UK. It just felt like any other ordinary sunny day.
I spent my morning basking in the hot sun and dipping in the sea to cool off – it’s a tough life isn’t it!?
Overall, it was a pretty chilled out day which isn’t a bad thing at all, sometimes it’s nice to just slow things down and enjoy.
How does Australia compare?
I backpacked around Australia on a year’s working visa so my Christmas in 2002 was spent at Trekkers’ backpackers in Southport on the Gold Coast. I had arrived two days before which meant I had made a whole bunch of friends with whom I had been out partying with on Christmas Eve into the early hours – needless to say, Christmas day started a little bit quiet and ropey!
Lunch was the only thing that differed – traditional Aussie style meant ... a BBQ! We all sat in the sunshine filling our plates and tummies with good old fashioned Christmas tucker which included crackers on the table and typical cheesy paper hats!
A home from home really ...with the added bonus of glorious sunshine! Would love to do it again someday.
Most of Europe celebrate on 24th December where gifts are exchanged and their traditional family meal is enjoyed in the evening.
My absolute favourite Christmas EVER was in Iceland 2011 – in 3ft of snow! Magical! Talk about all your Christmases coming at once.
Tourism is pretty big in Iceland so decorations were a-plenty which gives the place a real Christmas buzz. As Sy and I are used to celebrating on 25th December it felt natural to do the same whilst in Iceland. When we woke in the morning, to our absolute delight, snow had fallen silently during the night covering everything with nature's pristine powder white blanket. We were both super excited so quickly dressed in warm clothes and ran outside like young children!
Iceland has a very special place in my heart, and this Christmas has yet to be beaten!
From snow to Caribbean sunshine
With Spanish roots, Christmas in this Country is celebrated on 24th December and boy-oh-boy, didn’t they pull all the stops out! We stayed at the Iberostar Punta Cana and they ensured that all guests were shown Christmas in style! There was a gigantic tree in reception, decorations everywhere and at 4pm, they even arranged for Father Christmas to hand out Christmas presents to the children on the beach... he arrived in a helicopter! Rudolph must have had a cold and couldn’t lead the pack of reindeers so Santa had a helicopter instead! As you do!
*Since our encounter, we have learnt a lot more about the way the dolphins are taken from the wild and how they live in captivity for tourists' entertainment. If we knew this at the time, we wouldn't have chosen this activity. If you want to know more, click here or read here.
Asia – where we have spent our last two Christmases
Borneo was our Asian Christmas destination in 2015 and will be in 2016, on the island of Mabul; we stayed at Scuba Junkie. We were here with a mixture of people from all over the world, some celebrated on 24th and others on 25th December ... I was prepared for both! I brought with me a bunch of Christmas hats and traditional treats like Christmas cake and stollen and shared it amongst the new friends we had made. Scuba Junkie did a fantastic job of decorating with the resources they had on the island and there were paper chains dangling from the beams, tinsel draped around the bar and paper decorations hanging from the ceiling – brilliant!
Have you spent your Christmas away from home? How was it for you? Were you in sunshine or snow? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below – we want to know!
This post is part of a blog link-up with #FollowMeFriday, #WeekendWanderlust, #TheWeeklyPostcard & #WeekendTravelInspiration, if you want to read other inspirational travel stories from awesome storytellers, click on one of the pictures below!