Christmas is traditionally a time to spend with family at home or involves going to visit family members at their homes, but what really is Christmas? I believe Christmas is definitely about family time but this doesn’t have to be at home.
Every Christmas for the last 10 years me, my mum, dad and two sisters have always taken a three week holiday. Both my parents are self-employed and the only time they can leave to go on holiday is over Christmas, so it was our one holiday a year.
We have travelled to a large number of places; Australia, America, the Caribbean, around Europe and Mexico. But it never mattered where we travelled I just loved that I got to spend three weeks with my family. At home at Christmas, my family would all get together for one, maybe two days and then everyone would do their separate things, whereas when we were on holiday we spent three weeks together-no one had to work or see friends/ boyfriends, we were just in our own little world.
Yes, I admit this is far from normal and most people would be horrified at the idea of going on holiday over Christmas but I believe it’s a great idea.
Every country does Christmas differently and it’s a cultural experience to be in a different country and see what traditions and norms they have. Here are a few places I have spent Christmas and what I thought was different about them:
1. Australia – Christmas in Australia was completely different from anything I had experienced before, first of all it was 32c outside. We were staying in Noosa, Queensland a beach town between Brisbane and Cairns that was completely beautiful. Australia doesn’t really do the whole decorations thing, like there was random bits of tinsel in various places but that was it. This could be mainly because December is the height of the Australian summer. I spent Christmas Day in a condo overlooking the beach, opened presents, had breakfast and then ventured down to the beach. Here we went swimming in the ocean, sunbathed and hung out. People had Christmas trees on the beach, it was like the whole town was on the beach and there was super cool atmosphere. Following this, we returned to our condo and had steak, kangaroo sausages and chips for our Christmas dinner, then just hung out as a family.
2. America – I have done Christmas in a number of different places in America including Loon Mountain NH, Las Vegas NV, Orlando FL, Naples FL and L.A.. Many things were the same throughout the states-on Christmas Day everything is closed but Christmas Eve and the day after are just normal days, they do decorations and things like that but not over the top as you would imagine. It seems as though some Americans put more effort in to thanksgiving and that’s their big holiday. I have spent Christmas Day snow skiing, on the beach in Florida and California, walking around Vegas and chilling by the pool in L.A.. Each state is very different and there isn’t really a normal thing to do on the day apart from just spend time with family and eat a big lunch.
3. I spent Christmas Day on an aeroplane once, which was a very interesting experience-it was the longest Christmas Day I’ve ever had! We flew to Jamaica at like 9am and landed at like 7pm GMT. We had a disgusting version of Christmas dinner on the plane, but people in the airport were wearing hats etc and there was a good atmosphere. When we got to the hotel we had a Christmas dinner at a buffet restaurant and drinks in the evening. I have some pretty photos of the sunrise in London and the sunset in Jamaica.
4. Europe – I have spent Christmas Day snow skiing in France a few times. Christmas didn’t seem to be big in France, places were decorated with trees and things but we just went about our normal day snow skiing. There were people wearing Christmas outfits on the slopes and laughing around though. Snow ski resort towns are mostly filled with holiday makers so I don’t think this was a good idea of a French Christmas but it was definitely fun. We had a nice dinner and they had fireworks on the mountain that we watched from our balcony.
5. Colombia – Colombia at Christmas was the biggest culture shock mainly because I was immersed in a Colombian family environment. But, having said that it was still amazing. In Colombia they celebrate the Ceremony of Light on December 8th where they light candles and join together as a family or a neighbourhood and have drinks, let off lanterns, play music and have a good time. December 16th is called Novena, everyone once again joins together as a family and eat a big dinner, exchange presents, have drinks, sing hymns and read prayers. This is traditionally done every night in different members of the family’s homes until Christmas Eve, which is the main day of the festive season in Colombia. Families sometimes go out for lunch together and in the evening gather around the tree to exchange and open presents. Then have a big dinner-the dinner we had was a buffet with seafood, cheeses, pastas and other Colombian foods. The family then gathers to say prayers, sing hymns and tell the story of Jesus. Christmas Day is a holiday where everyone just relaxes and a lot of people go on vacation, we took a flight to the Caribbean coast of Colombia and then ate dinner in a nice seafood restaurant and had some drinks.
6. England – In England (at home) Christmas is a very big deal, people will start preparing on December 1st. On Christmas Eve some people attend midnight mass and gather with their family beforehand. Christmas Day is the main day on which families will gather to exchange gifts and have a roast lunch (usually chicken, turkey or pork, roasted potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, vegetables, gravy, stuffing and a variety of desserts). The majority of people then watch the Queens speech at 3pm in which she addresses the country and tells them the highlights of the year and of things to come. Board games and group games are usually played in the evening and the leftover food is eaten. The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day which can for some families mean doing the same thing again but with the other side of the family or involves visiting other family members.
Due to the fact that I was on holiday, these are really only the experiences of a tourist in a different country at Christmas, so my experiences are unlikely to be the same as those of the native population. This is why I think spending Christmas in Colombia was such a culture shock. However, I have learned that the main thing that all these places have in common is that Christmas makes people happy, creates a good atmosphere and is a time to spend with family and to appreciate others no matter where you may be in the world.