While there are many who still prefer their home comforts when they travel, to visit only places where the locals speak the same language and where restaurants serve up the same sort of dishes as at home, for me, travelling is all about immersing yourself in the culture and customs of a country. And, there is often no better time to get under the skin of a destination than witnessing how Christmas and New Year is celebrated there. Here are just 5 of my favourite festive destinations so far…
A Portuguese Church Service
While my Portuguese only stretches to ordering a vinho branco, we decided to get into the true spirit of Christmas on a trip to the western Algarve, attending the Christmas morning church service with the locals in the little fishing village of Alvor. And, while it was impossible to understand much of what was being said, it was still a beautiful experience to soak up the atmosphere and shake hands with the rest of the congregation as they wished us Feliz Natal.
Caroling and Clubbing in New Orleans
If New Orleans knows how to do anything well, it’s how to party. And, there’s no need to wait for its famous Mardi Gras because Christmas is just as lively. There are lights and Christmas wreaths hanging from just about every building, there are outdoor carol services and the local performing artists take to the streets to sing Christmas songs. If you weren’t happy before you went to New Orleans, the atmosphere at Christmas can’t fail to make you smile. New Year’s Eve is celebrated in Jackson Square where you can watch the fireworks display before heading to the French Quarter to dance the rest of the night away.
Swimming in the Cornish Sea
Cornwall is beautiful at any time of the year, famous as one of the world’s best surf spots. And, just because it’s winter, that doesn’t mean no one takes a dip. Still surfers go out hoping to catch the perfect wave. And, on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, there are organised festive dips across the county, including at Bude, Sennen, Gwithian and Charlestown. Events are lifeguard supervised because the sea can be more dangerous in winter and there’s no getting around the fact that it’s incredibly cold, but it certainly wakes up all your senses, curing any hangover you may have from Christmas Eve or Christmas Day drinks. Afterwards, a warming hot chocolate was necessary back at the cute wooden cabin I was staying in at Parkdean’s St Minver, near Rock. New Year celebrations are best spent at nearby St Ives where everyone dresses up in fancy dress to watch the fireworks.
Christmas Lunch on the Beach
All the Christmas cards you receive may depict images of snowy scenes, but spending Christmas on Australia’s Bondi Beach, at least once during your lifetime, is a must. It’s the middle of summer in Australia so temperatures are soaring, meaning families tend to eat cold seafood, picked up freshly from markets, or indulge in that age-old Australian tradition, the barbecue. There’s music from the Sunburnt Christmas festival to keep you entertained. Then, to see in the New Year, you can be one of the first to hear the chimes of midnight anywhere in the globe by joining in the celebrations at Sydney Harbour.
Cape Town Parades
With mercury levels soaring, Cape Town’s beaches are at their busiest over the festive period. To get into the festive mood, you can attend the family-friendly concerts at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. One of the most amazing experiences is heading up Table Mountain in the cable car for a spectacular view of the fireworks over the Victoria and Albert Waterfront on New Year’s Eve. Then, on New Year’s Day in the City Bowl and Bo Kaap district, the Minstrel Carnival, featuring 10,000 brightly costumed dancers is the perfect way to continue the celebrations.
Hi Stay Adventurous readers! I’m Katie, Craig has very kindly allowed me to write this post for him. Wherever in the world you decide to spend Christmas and New Year in, travelling is sure to help you appreciate the spirit of Christmas. After all, much of the Christmas story describes journeying. Thanks for having me!