Living abroad for almost 10 years some of my most memorable Christmas celebrations have been very far from my UK home. Here are 3 that were quirkily different …
In the early 80s a group of us spent one Christmas and New Year in Egypt. On Christmas Day we left our VERY basic hostel to find a cheap restaurant open which served festive fare and a drink. As you can imagine, in a predominantly Muslim country on a Saturday, that was not so easy â€¦ Eventually we found a little place by the Camel Market (not on that day), with a big table outside. We were offered Roast chicken and chips with local beerâ€¦ Perfect.
Whilst we waited (for hours) for the chicken, we drank warm beer and relished the hot sun, safe in the knowledge that back home in the UK it was probably raining and definitely cold. The chicken was the toughest, ropiest old bird you could imagine – but we enjoyed it anyway as we reminisced about our favourite Christmas holidays, exchanged REALLY cheap and fun gifts, toasted absent friends and congratulated ourselves on having a very unChristmassy Christmas Day.
In 1990, a friend and I escaped from Hong Kong to stay at a luxury hotel in Pattaya, which looked absolutely dreamy. What we didn't know was that during the Vietnam War, Pattaya had been a favourite place for soldiers to chill out and â€˜relax' – and their legacy lived on â€¦
Having arrived on Christmas Eve we decided to eat out in Pattaya the next day, so after a relaxing day by the pool we wandered into the town. What a shock that was. It was late afternoon and still daylight but all the bars were busy and it was obvious what delights were on offer for Christmas hereâ€¦ We wandered up and down Soi 6 barely able to contain our amazement. Some of the bars and clubs had festive decorations amidst the neon – I'll never forget one sign which read â€˜A Merry Christmas to all our Customers' above a lap-dancing club offering some very exotic acts â€¦
Eventually we found a vaguely respectable bar where we had Pad Thai noodles and fended off the attentions of some very drunk Australian guys who'd clearly partaken of a fair bit of Christmas cheer. As their propositions got more extreme we decided return to our hotel and leave Pattaya red light district to its own unique Christmas festivities!
Queenstown, South Africa
â€œWe're having a Braai on Christmas Day – just family and a few mates â€¦â€ thus was I introduced to Christmas Dinner, the South Africa way. I was staying with my boyfriend's family on their farm just outside Queenstown. The weather was fantastic; warm, sunny and fresh. On Christmas morning we exchanged presents, drank sparkling wine and opened cards showing Santas and snow-covered carol singers outside typical English churches; all very incongruous with the African veldt outside the back door.
A Braai is a BBQ, South African style. On the biggest grill I've ever seen, was every kind of meat imaginable, including ostrich and Boerewors, a spicy sausage. Huge buckets were filled with ice and beer, boxes of red wine stood outside the kitchen door next to a tall fridge full of white wine, soft drinks & mixers. Two trestle tables were loaded up with all manner of salads, dips, breads and fruit, with a smaller table for the kids – and not a turkey or Brussel sprout in sight.
By 4pm the party was in full swing and it was time for carols and the Christmas pudding. The farm workers joined us and as â€˜Hark The Herald Angels Sing' rang out into the African sky from over 50 voices, it seemed the best way ever to celebrate this wonderful season.
Read about a trip to Spain where I found some quirky little Christmas figures for my son’s Nativity scene here.
Christmas past, present and future – whatever you do, wherever you are and whoever you are with, may all your Christmasses be quirky and bright 🙂
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You have a South African boyfriend? Great. I am a proud South African. Glad we got a mention on your list. hehe! I have a blog too Madcaptraveller
Its actually similar to yours!
You have some nice Christmas memories collected. I would take Queenstown anytime over Pattaya though 😉
Have a wonderful 2010!
Cheers Fida – well not been to Queenstown but Pattaya def not on my return list – tho Thailnd certainly is!
Have a quirky & fun 2010 x
Zoe, these Christmas experiences certainly live up to your nom de plume.
You made me laugh about Red District Pattaya. Hahaah…. I can only imagine how festive Christmas was for most well men…
A day spent with loved ones, alcohol in daylight and great food is always Christmas day. It would be nice to sing carols with friends and strangers… with 50 voices in hymn. Have a Merry Christmas!
Thanks Christina – hope your Christmas is a sociably quirkilicious one!
Most of my life seems to have a definite quirky edge to it John! Have a quirkilicious Christmas x
I am loving being in Pattaya. My trip to Pattaya this January 2011 was a Christmas gift from my son Jason. We had fun water skiing, going to the beach, eating fresh off the boat seafood, going to the shopping malls, and meeting new friends from all over the world. I’m staying in a condo in Jomtien, one of the beaches in Pattaya.
I enjoyed your story.
Please be fair to Pattaya, as it isn’t just a big red light zone. There is so much else to do. Walking Street is there, but haven’t been this trip, and so hence I haven’t gone and haven’t met any wild drunk people. There are a lot of very polite and friendly people. What is great about Pataya is that there is something for everyone, old to young. I am enjoying the social activities here with expats from every corner in the world.
There is a lot more to Pattaya than the girlie bars. Pattaya has really changed/improved in the past 10 years to include something for everyone.
I would like to spend Christmas in Turkey. Just for the sheer irony. You have enjoyed some great Christmases, Zoe.
I can just see you taunting those turkeys Barry!
Lovely post, Zoe. Toronto has a fair-sized South African community so I’ve enjoyed a braai at friends’ homes here. Always in the summer, though!