Christmas is different things to different people. As travellers, we’re fortunate enough to experience the magic of the holiday season in different cultures and places, although for some of us we’re ditching the travels and returning home for Christmas. I had a walk back through time to think about all of the weird, wonderful and lonely places I’ve spent Christmas Day over the years.
1. Sydney, Australia
Christmas in Sydney is great. Then again, I’m slightly biased, being born and raised and having all my family in this fair city. Growing up, Christmas day meant waking at the crack of dawn to the chirp of cicadas in the summer sun outside, the smell of the pine Christmas tree wafting throughout the house, to open presents from Santa. This was followed by champagne breakfast at my Grandfather’s place. My Grandfather knew about a million people and the champagne breakfast would have maybe 10o guests- every distant branch of the family was represented and also friends and colleagues. Generally, us kids would skip out half-way through for an uncrowded Christmas morning surf at Long Reef Beach, which was just down the road. Then after the waves we’d encourage the more “distant” guests to leave the party so that we could open more presents with aunts, uncles and cousins. A Christmas lunch of tiger prawns, leg ham, turkey and myriad other delights followed and the day would end with a family Trivial Pursuit boardgame battle. Sweet.
2. New York City, USA
This was my first Christmas outside Australia as a young backpacker with my travel buddy, Scott. We had hoped for our first white Christmas, but alas, it was not to be. Nonetheless, New York, with its roasting chestnuts, subway steam, Christmas trees and ice-skating at the Rockefeller Centre, and Rockettes dancing at the Radio City Music Hall, was endearingly enchanting, even if it was too cold to feel like a “real” Christmas. Not really knowing what to do with ourselves on Christmas morning, we ended up at mass in the front row at some large church on the Upper East Side.
3. Portland, USA
I lived and worked in Portland for two years, and had my first white Christmas there. This was pretty exciting, because Portland doesn’t usually get much snow, but overall this was the loneliest Christmas I ever had. Christmas Eve was saved by a work colleague who invited me to a video night- we watched Love Actually. But on Christmas Day there was a blizzard which dumped a foot of snow on top of the already 6 inches that lay on the city streets. I lived in my own studio apartment overlooking the baseball stadium and all I could really do was watch the snow fall from inside my apartment, all my American friends off with their families somewhere and my family on the other side of the world. I ventured out later that day and walked alone through the snowy Rose Garden chatting with weird meth-heads and stuff. A homeless chick asked me for a buck and I ended up taking her to lunch at McDonalds on Burnside St. She was living in her car in the snow and thanked me profusely- I think that was the one hightlight of the day.
4. Brasilia, Brazil
In Brazil, they celebrate Christmas at night on the 24th, which would usually be Christmas Eve for me. So at night, Santa comes, and then everyone opens presents with the family after a sumptuous dinner. I was visiting my fiance’s family with my fiance when I spent Christmas in this wonderful part of the world. With the 12 hour time difference, I was able to call home to Sydney as they unwrapped presents on the morning of the 25th while we unwrapped ours on the night of the 24th. And as an added bonus, the summer heat meant that it felt like Christmas to this Aussie!
5. Port Macquarie, Australia
If you visit Australia, then you could do far worse than to go to Port Macquarie on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. My family has a house there and it’s been our second home for decades. The area has beautiful beaches, stunning scenery and wildlife including wild koalas and kangaroos that visit our backyard. As an alternative to the regular Sydney celebrations, we’ve had a couple of Christmases in Port Mac and will be doing so again this year!
6. On a Plane at 30,000 Feet
Though again lonely, penny-pinching backpackers can’t afford to be picky, and Christmas Day has some of the best deals on international flights you’ll ever find. I myself have headed once to the airport on Christmas Day and spent the rest of the day kicking back watching movies above the clouds. I can’t say it was a particularly special time- though I was willing to put up with it for the special experiences it allowed at my destination!
What is Christmas like where you are? Any cool or crazy places you have spent Christmas? Let me know below!