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 🙂