Here in Australia we have a green – or perhaps I should say brown – Christmas. I start the day by swimming with my dad at Southbank, a man-made beach here in Brisbane. Yep, you guessed it, Christmas day is piping hot here! After that the whole family goes to my uncle’s place by the beach at Wynnum / Manly where we eat a lot of salads, cold meat and icy drinks. If the heat is not too unbearable, we muster up a bit of energy for backyard cricket and then wander down to the waterfront to enjoy the afternoon breeze, or pretend there is one…
For northern hemisphere types this probably doesn’t sound much likeChristmas at all! But I’ve spent Christmas in many parts of the world while on the road, and places where they don’t celebrate, and each has been memorable. I think whatever your creed, the message of Christmas is sharing the day with loved ones and spreading goodwill and goodcheer. So I thought I’d share my own travelling Christmas stories of goodwill with you.
Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India
This is a predominantly Muslim city on the edge of the Thar desert – think men in flowing robes, camels and sand dunes – where people went out of their way to acknowledge our festival. In the street people would come up to us and wish us Happy Christmas and restaurants put on special meals – we found a cafe selling vegemite on toast and milo (Aussie favourites) for breakfast so we bunkered down there. The owner said he’d spent sometime in Australia and liked vegemite (bless him) and had one jar left he’d saved for Aussies on Christmas Day!
Bangkok airport, Thailand
You used to pay a departure tax in Baht when you left Thailand – thank goodness they’ve abolished this as I would invariably forget and arrive at the airport and have to rustle money together. During one of these all too frequent experiences, I was queuing at the exchange booth to swap a few Aussie notes when an English guy came up to me and plonked a wad of Baht into my hand. He said, “consider this a Christmas gift from a stranger”, and departed for his flight. After I paid the tax I even had enough left for a coffee.
Auckland, New Zealand
I spent a rather rambuctious Christmas Eve with Swedish friends whose tradition is to celebrate the night before Christmas. We bought some Santa hats, gave each other gifts, ate a lot of food and played a few silly games at numerous locations around Auckland – you get the drift. The next day they celebrated with us again as Christmas Day was our main celebratory affair. I think we did all the same things again in the same fashion. It was fun to have a party with other homeless travellers and make the two days special.
Talk about a feast to end all. We sat down at a table groaning with food about midday and didn’t get up again until dinner time – it kind of rolled into one big never ending meal. Italians know how to eat and celebrate! There was seafood, fresh game meats, vegetables, pasta, eggplant, sweets, cake, wine, limoncello, Sardegnian mirto… need I go on? For a roaring good meal Italy is a choice place at Christmas.
I definitely rate this one because it snowed on Christmas Eve and we were treated to a lovely white Christmas! It was gorgeous to wake up and find the canals, lanes and churches blanketed in snow and to enjoy all the scrumptious Dutch foods! However I did get to know all those snow filled lanes and canals a bit too well. I was staying with friends that went to the Gouda cathedral on Christmas Day. They were involved in the service preparation so they went over earlier. When I left the house I closed the door behind me and set off but when I arrived at the church it was locked – they lock the church in Holland once the service has started so latecomers don’t disturb the proceedings! I turned back only to discover I then couldn’t get back into the house. So I spent the next hour or two wandering the deserted, cold and snowy lanes of Gouda. It was freezing and I was glad to get back inside – but at least I enjoyed those Dutch treats even more!
If you have a great Christmas story to tell, please share it!
Wherever you are this Christmas, on the road or at home, I hope you experience some of the joy of the season. Happy Christmas from all at VIP Backpackers.
Hope you’re enjoying the VIP Backpacker’s Travel Blog. There’ll be an update added every other Friday, so keep tuning in to keep your travel dreams alive! If there are any travel topics you want covered feel free to contact me, Jo, at firstname.lastname@example.org