It occurred to me recently that, although I don’t even celebrate Christmas, I almost always end up spending the holiday at home. Of course, the term “home” has shifted meaning with each move.
I asked several fellow bloggers recently to write a short piece about a place to spend the holiday, besides home. Here’s what they sent:
A San Francisco Christmas
by Noel Morata
San Francisco for the holidays is really a unique Bay Area experience that you should experience once in your life.
When I go back to see family back in San Francisco for the holidays, I always make sure to visit some of my favorite haunts and other festive locations around the city, all decked out in Christmas decorations and holiday cheer. San Francisco really gets into the spirit with all the neighborhoods, landmarks and the main attractions all decorated and ready for visitors to explore and enjoy the holiday spirit.
Check out some of the places I love going back to visit in this Christmas post here for all the wonderful highlights of exploring San Francisco. Make sure you also check out the city lights at night time, there’s a lot of places and things to do in the city for the holidays!
Noel writes and shows his wonderful photography at Travel Photo Discovery.
Christmas in Chiang Mai, Thailand
by Jane Dempster-Smith
Arriving into Chiang Mai on Christmas Eve we really did not know what to expect from the 2nd largest Buddhist country in the world. Chiang Mai has a large expat community, would their presence be enough for Christmas celebrations?
Our hotel Tri Yaan Na Ros had decorated their reception and restaurant with Christmas decorations. Wandering around Chiang Mai in the heat, Santa and his reindeers stood side by side with snowmen and Christmas trees. We escaped the heat into the shopping malls and we were welcomed to the sound of Christmas Carols and the sight of Thai shopkeepers dressed in Santa hats embracing the festivities of Christmas.
We enjoyed a traditional Christmas lunch at the Red Lion Pub with Santa hats, Christmas crackers and of course a traditional boozy Christmas pudding.
Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith travel full-time, housesitting along the way, and chronicle their adventures at To Travel Too.
Christmas in Stockholm
By Heidi Vandenbussche
Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas or Jul, is big business in Sweden. The cold and dark winter months feel less depressing with Christmas decorations and lights all over the place.
While Göteborg might be known as the Christmas town, Stockholm is also worth a visit during the holiday season. Make sure you don’t miss the Christmas markets of Skansen or on Stortorget (Gamla Stan), go ice-skating at Kungsträdgården and book a julbord (Christmas buffet) in one of the restaurants.
In Sweden, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th of December and most of the public festivities stop after the 23rd of December. Something to keep in mind when booking your city trip. God Jul!
Read more about Sweden at Heidi’s blog: Take me to Sweden! (also available in Dutch/Flemish!)
Germany is also popular for Christmas markets: read my post about why they’re special: What makes German Christmas markets special.
In the Sky on Christmas Day
By Irene S. Levine
One of the most memorable holidays we’ve had in recent years entailed flying from New York City to Cancun, Mexico on Christmas Day. During the holiday season, airports are often the common path between any two points so we had some trepidation about traveling during that time. But we heard that there would be fewer crowds if we flew on Christmas Day and looked forward to spending the week afterwards at a warm beach resort. Except for the unexpected fare hike, we were pleased to report nothing but good tidings and Christmas cheer among passengers, staff and crew.
Christmas at the Beach in Italy
By Sandy Swanton
Christmas Day at the beach is something all Australians do, right? This Aussie, a long way from home, joined a group of 18 Italians and expats from around the globe enjoying the salt air and sun in 2015 and I can’t wait to do it again!
Christmas in Tuscany has a new tradition – a visit to Viareggio to eat fish and chips on the pier, have coffee on the promenade, and dolce – dessert – and prosecco on the Pineta. Low key in every way, we spend the day relaxing, laughing and eating great food – because we are in Italy!
You can visit Sandy’s gorgeous travel photography and her blog at Global Wanderings. To read more about her experience as an expat establishing a new Christmas tradition away from “home,” read “Finding some Happiness.”
Christmas at the North Pole?
by Carol Esguerra Colborn
Imagine a place where it’s Christmas all year round, where streetlights and McDonald’s, Starbucks, Safeway and other businesses are bedecked with the same Christmas candy cane theme, where street names are Santa Claus Lane, Kris Kringle Drive, all things Christmas, and where you can chat and sit with Santa all year long.
Guess what Christmas Day would be like in that town? It turns into an endless Christmas in Ice Park for six weeks in December to January: the real Christmas Winter Wonderland next to Santa Claus House at 125 Saint Nicholas Drive, North Pole, Alaska.
To read more of Carol’s travel writing, visit her blog, Generation Z. Cruising in an RV.
Christmas at the Beach in Maui
By Nat Harris
Imagine trading in snow for sand and relaxing by the beach instead of stressing out over turkey dinner. Imagine waking up on Christmas morning and going for a swim in the ocean or heading to Haleakala Crater on Boxing Day.
Spending the holidays on Maui was one of the most enjoyable Christmases we’ve experienced. Of course we missed our families, maybe next time they will join us.
Nat and Tim Harris, culinary storytellers, make up A Cook Not Mad.
The holidays in Guatemala
Many years ago (1990, to be exact), I spent two weeks in Antigua, Guatemala during the school vacation. I signed up for an intensive one-on-one Spanish course at a school in Antigua, and stayed with a host family, arranged by the school.
My host family included me in all of their holiday traditions. We ate tamales, both savory and sweet, and the noise of the midnight fireworks outside was amazing. (Unfortunately, I have no idea what happened to the pictures I took. They’re probably in a box somewhere in the attic.)
It was all fascinating: a great way to see inside a culture, rather than just stay a tourist. I’d highly recommend signing up for a language school – in whatever country and language interests you – and especially urge you to stay with a host family rather than a hotel or hostel.
But in the meantime, have a very merry holiday season, wherever you are!
And feel free to add your Christmas-away-from-home story below as a comment!