Presents, noise, turkey, sherry, friends, family… we all have our own ideas of what makes Christmas.
But have you ever dreamed of escaping it all for different shores or just a change of scene? We asked some Henpickers about their experience of Christmas away from home…
Magic of New York
We always go away to New York for Christmas: its magical energy, buildings wrapped as presents, great food and shopping, lovely people – what’s not to love. Well unless you don’t like crowds – it’s very busy.
This tradition started in 2001, yes after 9/11.
We decided to be ‘appropriately selfish’ and spend Christmas just as a family with no work interruptions, so the best thing to do was leave the country. And that particular year, we got flights and accommodation for three for £520 for obvious reasons. We did visit the World Trade Center site to pay our respects and it was an incredibly emotional experience.
It sounds very indulgent but we buy each others’ tickets instead of presents so we all get something we really want.
This year our flight is on Christmas Day and lunch will be at The Boathouse in Central Park. Absolute bliss.
It wouldn’t be Christmas for us without The Big Apple.
It’s an annual thing
My partner and I always go away for Christmas, partly so we can spend some good time together at the end of the year, and partly because neither of us can stand the whole overdone commercial Christmas thing.
So we almost always go to Paris, where everything seems a lot more low key and sensible. Plus we get to spend time in a beautiful city.
We find an apartment right in the centre through www.airbnb.com (this is where people make their apartments available if they’re going away themselves). So far we’ve had lovely places to stay and it’s a lot lower cost than booking a hotel or a commercially advertised apartment. We’re also looking at the possibility of housesitting.
My strange, sunny Christmas
Years ago, I spent Christmas and New Year in Sydney, Australia. My then husband and I had taken advantage of family living over there on a working visa.
The weather was glorious, the people friendly and we had a great time. But somehow, Christmas Day on the beach in the sunshine just didn’t feel right!
We did our best, roasting turkey in the sweltering heat but it just didn’t feel like Christmas. There’s nothing that can beat a crisp, cold dank day filled with shopping stress. That is our British Christmas!
Christmas at the coast
I’ve spent a few Christmases on the coast around Whitby over the years, staying in various places including Scarborough and a sleepy little hamlet called Sneaton.
One of my favourites has always been Raven Hall Hotel at Ravenscar.
My standout memory is of staying there in 1993, when my twin boys were just 12 weeks old. It snowed (we were actually snowed in on the day we were due to leave!) and the first footsteps to break through the crisp and even snow which spread across the grounds from the hotel to the cliffs were Santa’s… just perfectly magical.
I’d stayed there for the two previous years, and they made a real fuss of us going back with our doubled-in-size family!
A cultural Christmas in Vienna
We went to Vienna a couple of years ago. Before we went we booked on a couple of events: Christmas lunch with pre-dinner drinks at the Liechtenstein Museum (with a concert thrown in and full access to exhibits) and a visit to Schonbrunn Palace plus a meal and evening Mozart concert.
There are loads of art galleries and museums to explore plus lots and lots of great food at the many Christmas markets.
Many restaurants also open on Christmas Day.
I was surprised, though, that we didn’t see even a single flake of snow (that’s global warming for you!)
Not my cup of chá
I was living in Brazil in 1999, and experienced Christmas there. Although I loved the country, spending Christmas there just didn’t feel right!
I couldn’t get used to the heat, palm trees and beach and the lack of turkey, Christmas lights and mince pies (very, very clichéd I know, but that’s how I felt). I also really missed my family and loved ones.
There was one definite upside though – I saw the Millennium in on Copacabana beach in Rio…
Celebrating in Saigon
A couple of years ago we spent Christmas Day in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) at the start of a cycling trip up the Mekong Delta through Vietnam and Cambodia.
Only 8% of the population is Christian, but they all seemed to have embraced the concept wholeheartedly, or at least the commercial aspects.
Giant baubles festooned many of the buildings in the city. Hotels had models of snowmen in their foyers, and left greetings cards in our rooms. People were dressed as Santa Claus, including toddlers travelling round on the back of mopeds.
Christmas dinner was a delicious prawn stir fry and a cold beer, served on a floating restaurant. Well earned after our first bike ride and a crawl around the Vietcong’s Cu Chi Tunnels.
Christmas in Vietnam was wonderful, but mostly because it is a fantastic country to visit despite its difficult recent past. It is a beautiful, abundant place, with plentiful fresh food (they farm fish in bomb craters) and welcoming people.