I have had the good fortune of travelling to many foreign places, and I don’t believe anything has been more disorienting for me than experiencing Christmas where there are palm trees. Hearing Christmas songs like “Dashing through the snow, in a one horse-open sleigh” being played over loud speakers while I am strolling in flip flops and shorts is discombobulating to say the least.
As early as I can remember, my Christmas’ traditions and symbols have been immersed in Nordic customs, including snow covered landscapes, evergreens, and cold weather activities such as skating, skiing, tobogganing, and keeping warm with fireplaces, hot beverages and warm clothing.
We spent the first few weeks of December in California 3 years ago, and California Christmas celebrations can be a little different. Northern California and mountains may see some snow, but for the southern part of the state (the weather is mild if not downright balmy and I was told that curling up in front of the fire with the air conditioning going is not unheard of. In coastal California, walks on the beach on Christmas afternoon are a tradition, possibly with some sand castle building. Kids ride their bikes and skate boards rather than sledding. Evening strolls are often planned with friends to see neighborhood houses decorated and lit up. A thermos of hot chocolate is optional
One year, we debarked in Tampa from a a cruise in the Gulf of Mexico and decided to extend our holiday just a little longer before returning to snowy Canada, by visiting family in the area . We spent a day in nearby Tarpon Springs. It is a beautiful city along Florida’s Gulf Coast, with Greek eateries lining the waterfront boulevard, a legacy of the Greek sponge divers who settled here in the early 1900s. The souvenir shops are a reminder of the once booming sponge industry. What I most remember about the charming town was feeling completely disoriented because I was having difficulty reconciling the sights and sounds around me to one place. It felt like I was sitting in waterfront restaurant in Greece, but I knew I was in Florida, and yet surrounded by typical nordic Christmas symbols like decorated artificial Christmas trees and lights.
I have never been to Australia, but wondered how Christmas is celebrated, since it is the middle of Summer in Australia at Christmas time. Many of the customs are similar to the British, American and Canadian traditions. They put up lights, and sing Carols, and its not surprising, that the words to many of the Christmas Carols about snow and the cold winter are changed to special Australian words! Christmas dinner as they know it is a barbecue with seafood such as prawns and lobsters along with the ‘traditional english’ food ( like a Christmas Pudding). On Christmas Eve, fish-markets are busy with everyone buying their seafood fresh for the Christmas feast. The reindeers are tired by the time Santa gets to Australia, and he will use kangaroos while they rest and even changes his warm winter coat and mittens for lighter clothes.
If you want to know more about how people spend Christmas in warmer climates, check out this site for more customs around the world www.whychristmas.com . I enjoy learning how others celebrate Christmas, however for this northern girl, the magic is all about the beautiful serenity found in snowy landscapes, and sounds of winter.