6 Reasons Why You Should Spend Christmas Abroad
Published 25 November 2016
When it comes to the idea of spending Christmas abroad, most people fall into one of two camps. The first is those who can’t think of anything worse – surely Christmas is a time for family, for being at home and opening your presents together under the Christmas tree? The second is those who can’t think of anything better – hopping on a plane and getting away from the tinsel and baubles and not coming back until it’s all over.
In my 32 years on this planet I’ve spent eight Christmases abroad, sometimes with the whole family, sometimes just me and my husband. All but one of those has been spent skiing in the Alps, feeling very festive among the snow-covered log cabins. But one was spent in Vietnam, where in all honesty it could have been July – there wasn’t even a hint of Christmas cheer.
Nevertheless, I’m still a strong advocate for going away over the festive period, and here’s why:
Other countries do it differently
Roast turkey and Christmas pudding might be the norm here in the UK, but across the globe there are numerous yuletide traditions a little different to ours, making an overseas holiday at Christmastime the perfect way to experience a new culture’s take on the festival. The many Christmases I spent in the Alps opened my eyes to European customs such as having the big celebration on Christmas Eve, skiing Santas and the galette des rois, a cake with a porcelain (or these days, plastic) figurine inside. Whoever finds it in their slice is king for the day and gets to wear a crown. Further afield, Venezuelans celebrate by roller-skating to church, while in Spain, a Christmas log poops out presents. I kid you not.
Christmas Day on the beach
Although Christmas cards inevitably feature snow-dusted cottages and red-breasted robins, for the majority of countries this is far from reality. In the Southern Hemisphere, 25th December falls at the height of summer and, while this might seem strange to us Brits, there’s something to be said for spending Christmas Day on a sunny beach. Australia is the best place to try this, where barbecued Christmas dinners and surfing Santas frequent the sands. Thailand’s islands are another popular choice: although there are fewer festive touches, you’ll find it hard to care as you chill out under a palm tree.
There’s no need to cook
Cooking Christmas dinner can be one of the most stressful elements of the big day, especially if you’re catering for a large family or a gaggle of fussy eaters. But head to a hotel or restaurant on the 25th December and your Christmas meal will be cooked for you. I’ve tried many hotel Christmas offerings, ranging from turkey with all the trimmings to 10-course extravaganzas featuring lobster and oysters. Not having to cook it makes the food taste a million times better, and there’s usually a choice, so vegetarians and those strange people who don’t like roast potatoes will be catered for without any hassle. Many luxury hotels make a song and dance about their Christmas menu, with canapés, cocktails and Christmas crackers thrown in among the tinsel. The wine flows merrily and a good time is had by all. And there’s not a kitchen timer or an overcooked Brussels sprout in sight.
There’s less holiday to take
Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day are all bank holidays in the UK, and when the planets align and they fall on a weekend, this means taking just three days off work will give you 10 whole days off in a row. With time off work a coveted resource, this is a great way to make the most of your annual leave. You don’t even have to go away for the full stretch – try a post-Christmas mini-break, a weekend away or indeed a long-haul adventure to the other side of the world. Even better if your employer gives you Christmas Eve off too.
Guaranteed white Christmases
Despite the appeal of spending Christmas in the sunshine if, like me, you’re a traditionalist at heart and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without the mistletoe and fir trees, then consider spending the holidays somewhere snowy. Canada is a great place to start – you’re practically guaranteed a white Christmas and they don’t hold back on the celebrations either. Quebec City is positively fairy tale at his time of year, as is New York City, where the snow gives the streets a pure and cosy feel – try a festive sleigh ride under the illuminations. Anywhere in alpine Europe works well too, and there you have the bonus of the wonderfully twinkly Christmas markets to enjoy. Did someone say mulled wine?
It’s an excuse to get away
If you can’t stand the sight of mince pies and hearing Mariah Carey warble All I Want for Christmas for the seventh time that day is sending you round the twist, then going on holiday is the perfect escape from the madness. But not only that, if the thought of spending extended periods of time with your family is just too much to bear, if you’re far, far away, you’ll find the peace and quiet you crave. To really get away from anything remotely Christmassy, head to Southeast Asia, where Christmas is not traditionally celebrated (although these days you might see the odd bauble hanging from the palm trees). Alternatively, jet off to Africa and go on safari. Although safari lodges do occasionally put fairy lights up, you can’t get further from Christmas than elephants and zebras.