The winter weather is happily rolling in, as unhappy as that makes me. Cold chills and rain, which the papers seem to be gleefully telling me could go on for months and months yet. But this hasn’t always been the case for me. I’ve even enjoyed spending Christmas in countries other than the UK with far milder climates. In one case, the (literal) polar opposite!
Christmas in Australia
Fresh from graduating university, I took a working holiday in Australia. In the southern hemisphere the seasons are reversed, meaning that Christmas takes place in the heat of summer. Staying with a friend, I had the unique pleasure of enjoying a swim on a gloriously sunny day instead of wrapping up warm against the cold. If you’re looking to get away from the traditional British weather during the Christmas season (cold and wet, in my experience) then this is a lovely example of a completely different experience. This is made all the stranger by the fact that there are still images of snow and pine trees on all of their cards! And you can still enjoy yourself singing traditional Christmas songs, even if “Let it Snow” seems ridiculously out-of-place.
Of course, celebrating Christmas in Australia also had some downsides. The time difference between there and the UK is huge and difficult if you’re experiencing homesickness. I opened gifts from friends early in the day and became very aware that I wouldn’t be able to thank them for hours. It was very disconcerting. There’s also the sheer distance between the two locations. I can’t imagine someone casually deciding to travel to Australia during the Christmas season unless they already had an interest in going for other reasons. More that 12 hours flying and you’re likely to have a layover in Dubai or China (which can also take hours), it’s a brutal trip and even more so for children.
Although I ended up staying with friends, making this international trip quite domestic, I can heartily recommend the Christmas fair that takes place in Pyrmont in Sydney and the beautiful Melbourne Christmas Festival. The latter city even invites you to visit all of their grand Christmas decorations with this map, if you’re interested in a festiva scavenger hunt. It’s worth remembering that these huge Australian cities are far more spacious than those we have in the UK, so they have plenty of space for some really spectacular decorations.Christmas in Majorca
I’ve had another international Christmas, which was also a lovely experience but didn’t require so much travel. My partner and I decided to treat ourselves to a trip during the winter season, allowing us to enjoy a quiet, private Christmas as well as taking advantage of lower prices due to travelling off-season. We were even able to splurge and get ourselves a gorgeous Majorcan Villa, which turned out to be very handy when we realised that most of the restaurants closed early!
We were able to do some shopping and create our own festive feast, including some of the most delicious wine I’ve ever had the pleasure to try! The island was surprisingly quiet and we were able to enjoy some almost-deserted beaches, almost as though we had them all to ourselves!
The travel times were shorter than a trip to the Southern Hemisphere, about five to six hours. And the time difference is negligible so you can get back in touch with your family if you want to. Getting a place with a decent internet connection means you can even enjoy skyping your family over your phone or laptop, so you don’t feel too disconnected. Of course, the biggest benefit to spending Christmas in the Mediterranean is that you get considerably warmer weather, where temperatures rarely fall below 10 degrees in December.This is a blessing for those with joint issues or pain conditions that react badly to the cold, as well as being very pleasant for those who aren’t a fan of traditional UK weather.
Christmas in Devon
I remember being very annoyed upon discovering that the most popular holiday destination for UK tourists is where I already live. Devon and Cornwall are exceptionally popular places to visit during the summer but most places experience a severe lull during the off season. I suppose this is the time where locals can reclaim their home! Obviously, most of my Christmases have taken place in Devon but there’s one that immediately comes to mind.
Living in Plymouth, I’m located very close to Dartmoor. Although the South West rarely encounters snow during winter, one year my family knew that there had been snowfall out on the moors. We decided to wander out there with the dog and go for a bracing walk. Bracing was certainly the word, the ground is elevated enough for us to get a beautiful view of the moors, the river Tamar and Plymouth itself. There were also a small herd of Dartmoor ponies, unaffected by the snow and eating grass. With our dog lunging around in the snow it was one of the quietest but more picturesque Christmases I’ve ever enjoyed.
A British Christmas has many unique qualities, from the unpredictable weather through to dozens of cultural touches that you never even notice. Taking a trip away during the winter months can be a great time to travel if you’re looking to save some money but you might be surprised by what you miss when you’re so far from home. I for one am looking forward to another Christmas at home this year, though I won’t rule out Menorca for 2015!