Christmas Abroad - CC Flickr Anita Ritenour

Festive Flying – Christmas Abroad

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Craig and I are spending our first Christmas together (after three years as a couple), and our first Christmas abroad! We will be tucking into the turkey and rocking around the Christmas tree in Mount Pleasant, Vancouver. Normally, we would spend Christmas day with our own families in Fife, Scotland but this year, as newly engaged love birds, we’ll be Two Scots celebrating Christmas Abroad! However, it turns out we are not alone. Many travellers take the festive break as an excuse to go further afield…

Christmas in Colombia

One Weird Globe (Chris Backe – rhymes with ‘hockey’)

After living abroad for almost eight years in three different countries, Christmas abroad tends to take on whatever meaning the locals have ascribed to it. Back in Korea, Christmas was HUGE – if there are any male English teachers that didn’t get the chance to play Santa Claus,  you have not experienced life, my friends! In Thailand, the Buddhist majority looked to Christmas in the same way the rest of the world might perceive Buddha’s birthday – a notable day, but did not do anything different. Nonetheless quite a few shops were closed and some people were off  work.

This Christmas, we’re in Medellin, Colombia – still in the Northern Hemisphere, but not by much. It does mean the average temperature in December is 27 C (80 F), about a degree less than the average temperature in July. We won’t be bundling up or struggling to make it through snow (though December is the only month that’s seen single-digit lows, so I may eventually have to see if those jeans still fit!)

Come Christmas, we’ll likely find ourselves headed to the expat-oriented Poblado area of Medellin for an upscale Christmas buffet or dinner of some kind. I’ll exchange a few small gifts with my wife, though we won’t be worried about setting up a tree or decorating the apartment. I proposed to Laura on a snowy Christmas Eve, though we haven’t yet created any traditions beyond Skyping with family. It’ll be a quiet day to relax, spend time together, and share a bottle of wine – exactly what a good holiday should be.

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Savored Journeys – A Cuban Christmas

Savored Journeys (Laura with Nick in tow)

My husband and I always travel for Christmas. Usually we spend one year in Oregon with my family and the next year in California with his family. We’ve been doing that routine since we were married four years ago. However, this year we have decided to forego the usual family Christmas in lieu of a just-the-two-of-us escape. We’ve always wanted to see what it would be like to spend the holiday in a different country, and secretly neither of us really like Christmas much, so we wanted to pick a destination that wouldn’t overwhelm us with decorations and music. That is how we decided to spend Christmas in Cuba.

The holiday isn’t celebrated with much gusto in Cuba, ever since Fidel Castro put a crackdown on the Catholic faith in the 70s. While some families are starting to embrace Christmas once again on the island, it’s not a major ordeal with Christmas trees, lights, singing, and presents like it is in the U.S. We plan to blissfully ignore the usual Christmas traditions and instead soak up the warmer weather and copious mojitos.

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Christmas Abroad in Cuba

A Visit from Rudolph in Rotorua, NZ

Selims Raasta (Samiya, Ashique and family)

All things going well, we will be on the road heading to South Island, New Zealand in our campervan. Christmas day will most likely be somewhere between Rotorua and Wellington, North Island and hopefully getting to Milford Sounds for the last day of 2015! This is the first time that we will be experiencing summer in December, which I still cannot get my head around. The last eleven years we have lived in England and have spent most Christmases with the family in London. Some winters we had travelled abroad but it had always been winter wherever we went. This time we will be spending it with our dear friends and their ten month old baby visiting from Thailand.

A very new experience for all of us, seven people (including a baby) in a campervan for ten days on an epic road trip around South Island! Some things will be the same –celebrations, wine, good food, and laughter – all the right ingredients for a wonderful Christmas holiday. Except that we will have fjords, mountain peaks, sea kayaking, and tramping for entertainment. I know we will miss family, we will miss the anticipation of a white Christmas which rarely occurs in London, and kids will miss receiving presents. We will also have to figure out how Santa will be visiting our seven year old (the ten year caught on last year). I think this Christmas will be an enriching, memorable and once in a lifetime experience that none of us will forget!

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Christmas Abroad New Zealand

Goodbye Santa in the Sun!

Contented Traveller (Paula & Gordon)

This will be our first year not spending Christmas with our families. I want to experience a cold and preferably white Christmas and always have. In Australia, our Christmas Day is bloody hot, and I remember one year, cooking roasts in 40-degree heat. This is from our British convict past, but now we go for fresh seafood and a swim at the beach, after that experience.

This year we will be spending November and December in the USA and Canada. It should be a great lead up to the Christmas season. I am expecting to see seriously brilliant decorations, ice-skating, cool winter hats, carollers, and lots of food and anything else that is OTT. I hope Gordon gets a horse and carriage ride for me, through Central Park, New York, à la Sex and the City, as my Christmas present. Doubtful.

We will be in Stowe, Vermont for the lead up to Christmas Day, and that will set the scene nicely as it has Christmas written all over it. At this stage, we are going to be in Boston for four days including Christmas Day and have no idea what we will do. I know one thing that is for sure, I will be watching Love Actually on Christmas Eve – it’s a tradition, and Gordon will lock himself away, rather than see the movie.

It is funny, but I read about a great little café in East Boston serving Aussie meat pies, called KO Pies. That would be so ironic if we ended up there on Christmas Day and wrong on so many levels. Or we go to the bar, Cheers, where everybody knows your name!

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Boston - Christmas Abroad

Brussel Sprouts in Bali

Where is Sharon (Sharon, Joshua and family)

We are spending Christmas with our small family in Bali, Indonesia this year. We will be sad to be away from our extended family but since our kids come with us wherever we go (3 and 5), we will have the people with us that matter most. We are Australians, so we are used to a hot Christmas. We have booked a fancy pool villa and we are looking forward to a Christmas day full of relaxing alternated with dips in the pool. We chose Bali because a lot of Australians go to Bali. This has us hopeful that we will be able to get a traditional Christmas lunch like we would have at home – basically roast meat and vegetables, gravy, lots of desserts, etc. It’s also a similar time zone to home which will make it easy to talk to the family – the owner of the villa promises us that Skype works well! As we have little kids, other than visiting family, Christmas will be similar to home. Santa will still come on Christmas Eve, although he will only bring a small present each. We are looking forward to a nice and easy Christmas free of the running around that can happen at home. We have been to Bali many times so this also takes away the pressure to be out sightseeing.

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Christmas Abroad Bali

Colombia, Cuba, New Zealand, the States, and Bali – travel inspiration for your future festival trips!

Where will you be this Christmas?

Feature image via Flickr – CC 2.0 – Anita Ritenour – Merry Pismo Sunset 2

Gemma and Craig full-time workers with a life-long travel habit. Flirting with 30 and let loose on the world! Gemma writes, Craig looks good in the photos.

Comments 24

  1. What a fun article! I love to see where every one is spending the holidays and it’s good to see that we aren’t the only ones shirking our usual family Christmas! You guys have a fantastic newlywed Christmas up in Canada. I’m sure it’ll be remembered forever.

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  2. Are you excited to be away from home?

    I’d still love to have my first white Xmas, so hoping for a little sprinkling wherever we may be (possibly Georgia, Armenia or Turkey)!

    🙂

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  3. HAHA! I loved reading about this. I’m not Christian, but I love Christmas — it’s been amongst my favorite festivals in a land where there’s some sort of festival every two weeks, so you can imagine my joy at discovering how celebrations vary from one place to the other 🙂

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  4. Merry Christmas every one! Try experiencing Christmas in the Philippines. Our celebration starts on September 1 until January. Hahaahha that’s when people starting to decorate their houses and this month the traffic is terrible. People seems like shopping everyday. But the most important thing here. Weather people have money or don’t, it’s still priceless to celebrate Christmas with your love ones:)

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  5. I’m not Christian either but I love Christmas! The lights, the spirit, everything! Although in Portugal you don’t have a lot of that. This year I’m going to spend Christmas abroad as well! I’m going to New York city! Happy holidays!

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  6. I’ve spent Christmas abroad a few times including Sydney, a cruise ship, and Austria skiing. I definitely prefer the cold locations for christmas as sunbathing outdoors on Christmas day just feels bizarre!!

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      1. Sunny just feels bizarre to me for Christmas unless it is a super cold day in the UK. I have only done a ski trip once over Christmas and that was cool. I would be up for doing that again! Maybe next year as this year we are at home and then heading to Monaco for NY. Have you been as I would appreciate any tips on how not to come home broke?

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          1. Hotels sorted but would like to live like a millionaire on the budget of a pauper. After all I need to write about how to travel the globe 4 less which might not quite fit with spending hundreds on helicopter trips, fancy balls and gambling in the casino. Damn, I knew I should have set up a blog dedicated to Travelling like a millionaire! Have a great Christmas and congratulations on the engagement. Was it recent?

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            I have visions of a Bond movie with that description! Engagement was in October, Hallowe’en, my favourite day of the year! I feel your pain budget wise, we fly out of Costa Rica in March but I don’t think we’ll get to see much of it, Europe plans are changing slightly too. Can’t complain though!

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