Christmas has always been about family for me. No matter where we’ve been living around the country, we always come home to celebrate Christmas together. My childhood Christmases were always about packing 20 people into a tiny living room to open presents and watch The Queen’s speech.
But now we’re older and almost all of my cousins have their own families, those huge celebrations have turned into much smaller, quieter affairs. This year will be the first my brother will be celebrating elsewhere, so I’ve been thinking a lot about turning next year’s into a Christmas abroad instead. I asked some friends about their experiences having Christmas abroad and if they’d recommend it.
Christmas on the beach
Life Coach Lucy Sheridan of Proof Coaching spent Christmas in Sydney after many snowy Yorkshire Christmases. “I was working and living out there near Bondi. We went to the beach and had a big picnic on Christmas day. There were some BBQs and plenty of drinking so we weren’t the best at cooking that day!”
Part of the reason a Christmas abroad hasn’t appealed to me in the past is missing my family, so I asked Lucy if she felt the same. She said, “It did feel a bit weird as it was boiling hot and we were with a few friends rather than family, but I embraced it as I knew it probably wouldn’t happen again. I was a little bit homesick so I called my family and then got on with my day.”
A snowy Christmas with the real Santa Claus
My childhood best friend, Natalie, has spent the last three Christmas hols abroad, spending one year working in the real Lapland! She told me, “On the run up to Christmas everything was covered in snow, decorations were everywhere and we listened to Christmas music 80% of the time! It was amazing spreading Christmas cheer to all the families that came out on holiday, but it was a little disappointing waking up on Christmas morning to no family or stocking.”
Working with Santa himself cheered her up no end though. “In the morning I went husky sledging, which has to be the greatest experience of my life. Christmas lunch was a traditional roast turkey with trimmings in the hotel buffet. I sat with a family who were on holiday to see Santa because they didn’t want me to sit on my own! This being said, it could never beat my Christmases at home with my family, eating my mum’s cooking and playing board games.”
Christmas with a different family
Freelance writer, Lorna, went to Montpellier as a youngster to stay with her best friends’ family. She said, “They have a very different way of life to my family, who are basically turkey, tinsel and TV. My friend’s family are amazing but it was so different to what I’m used to – nut roast, no TV, loads of board games.”
My family are pretty much the same with British traditions and it took me a while to realise that not everyone watches The Queen! Lorna explained, “I doubt I’ll go away for Christmas again. I did love being away but also missed home. When I called and they were all having dinner together I was so homesick.”
Combining two cultures
Editor Lucie grew up in Athens from the age of 10 and moved to London aged 23. Her family would have a British Christmas, but combine it with Greek traditions. She said, “I remember my best friend and I going door to door singing English carols when we were about 12, because there was a tradition of Greek kids singing a Greek song and we wanted to give them something different.”
Knowing the festive season in both cultures, I asked her if it ever felt odd mixing the two. “Christmas never felt weird because my mum made it feel the same as it had in England. When I hosted an English Christmas on one of the islands, I made a traditional dinner for friends. They found the gravy really confusing but loved the crackers!”
A Christmas in Sin City
My friend, Jena, spent one Christmas in Las Vegas with perfect strangers. She told me, “A friend of mine was a bridesmaid at a wedding there on 23rd December, so she asked me if I’d join her for Christmas. It was so surreal being there with barely a bauble in sight, but the weather was so good – something us British folk aren’t used to!”
“We had brunch with the wedding party and it was so much fun meeting new people at that time of year. My friend then went to Skype with her boyfriend, so I ended up walking down the Vegas Strip with the bride’s brother and fiancée. We all just looked at each other realizing how bizarre it was to be spending Christmas with strangers.”
I asked her if she’d ever go back for Christmas. “Probably not. But am I glad I went? Absolutely! It’s not every day you get to spend the holidays in Vegas.”
My Christmas next year
As I get a little bit sad that my Christmases have changed so much, I’m also incredibly grateful for the 27 years they’ve been filled with love and happiness – years I’ll never forget. If I’m going to get used to much quieter festive seasons, I may as well do that on a beach in Antigua – right?
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