The humble traditional Christmas is somewhat of an institution and one which is tough to mess with. In reality Christmas is about getting stressed about cooking, over eating, having a few drinks, playing games and watching Christmas specials on television.
Alternative Christmas Day
So what happens when we break tradition, throw caution to the wind and try an alternative Christmas? Here are my top 5 festive variations.
Sometimes the best places to spend Christmas are those countries where few of the locals actually celebrate it. From London, it’s hard to find somewhere which isn’t too far to travel but offers some winter sun. Egypt is one of those places and having boarded our felucca sailboat down the Egyptian Nile, we were excited to spend Christmas day coasting down one of the most magical rivers in the world. A felucca is an open air sail boat and wonderfully basic. Days are spent jumping off the side to swim plus use the toilet and under an African sky we floated almost entirely without wind, past villages filled with crops, grazing water buffalo, farmers and small children waving from the watery river banks.
Christmas day we woke to a breakfast of falafel and kofta, and sparked up a shisha pipe. The sweet apple aromas spiced the air and Nile waters splashed as we dived into the cool depths. The sun warmed our bodies as we drifted down the Nile for most of the day at a glacial pace. In the evening we pulled the felucca to the side of the Nile and built a campfire to the sound of our Bedouin guides drum beats. Singing filled the air and we danced like drunken maniacs without a care as the cooling air welcomed us into the night. This was truly a wonderful Christmas day but unleashed an all-mighty hangover ‘the morning after the night before’!
Having been stranded in Puerto Montt for 5 days awaiting the departure of the Navimag cruise boat to Puerto Natales I was keen to set sail ahead of Christmas day, and what a better place to spend it than by cruising through the narrow channels of the Chilean Fjords. This is perhaps the most magical place I have ever spent Christmas day with the exception of being around family, sailing past mountains capped by snow, small villages and at the mercy of the blazing equatorial sunshine and crisp Patagonia wind.
The views were simply outstanding as was the eclectic collection of wonderful travellers from all over the globe. We played chess on the deck on a massive over-sized board and admired views whilst savouring Pisco Sours. It’s hard to describe a place which can only be summed up as indescribable, with photos not crediting the reality. Although I have to say the evening party was an anti-climax, the day was simply wonderful!
Obviously being from New Zealand I’ve spent many glorious summer Christmas’ lounging on the beach, with sizzling BBQ sausage aromas filling the air and swimming shorts on. Hot Water Beach sits on the Coromandel Peninsula, crested by stunning coastline and windswept views. Within two hours either side of low tide, we descended to the beach with spade in hand to dig into the golden sand and find hot water bubbling – nature’s own geothermal spa pool.
Let me set the scene for you. Imagine if you will, it’s Christmas day, the sun is shining and you lay submerged in a hot pool of water on the beach. Waves from the sea sweep in towards you falling just short of your made-made barrier and incredible remote views up and down the beach relax your eyes. New Zealand native trees hug the edge of the beach and at that time you could be nowhere else on earth. This is a truly unique Kiwi experience that every New Zealander and traveller must experience at least once in their lifetime and makes for a wonderful and completely untraditional Christmas day!
Although I have lived in London for 16 years now it still amazes me what an incredible city it is and a place I have spent many Christmas’. Perhaps for me the best part of spending this day in London is the chance to see this city that really never sleeps, finally quiet. I love going for a walk after lunch when there is very little traffic about and no one on the street – it reminds me of those movies when there has been some type of catastrophic event which has wiped out the human race bar a few civilians. I like wearing my warm coat to fend off the cold weather and see the windows in flats lit up with flashing lights.
Mozambique is one of those African countries which offers amazing diving opportunities but a lack of real infrastructure so dive sites and beaches remain unspoilt – one of my main reasons for travelling there. Our beachside cabin sat nestled on the sandy edge of Tofo Beach flanking magnificent views and fishermen returning with the catch of the day. Waking to the golden sunshine we walked over to the dive centre with hopes of giant Manta Rays and Whale Sharks circling in the Indian Ocean. Suited up we took to the water in speed boats and sped off to our launch site and although Whale Sharks didn’t make a guest appearance, it was a dream of mine to witness the magnificence of Manta Rays riding the ocean currents with majestic ease, especially in Mozambique on Christmas day.
With very few options for evening entertainment we descended on a local bar where local musicians fused with instrument toting foreigners to create an electric sound, beckoning travellers filled with under-priced drinks to the dance floor. It was one of those Christmas days without a smattering of tinsel or tradition but could only be summed up as glorious.
Ho Ho Ho!