Ho Ho Ho… Here we go again.
It’s Crimbo time: Grandad snoozing in his armchair, auntie Liz getting on the sherry, and finally that gorgeous, golden bird everybody can’t wait to see – and I’m not talking about your younger cousin that has just discovered fake tan for the first time.
Let’s be quite clear, we are definitely not knocking a good old Christmas at home with the fam. It’s a familiar food-fest, usually fuelled with copious amounts of mulled wine and German gingerbreads. This precious time off work really does only come around once a year so, once again, we decide by 1st December that this Christmas is going to be even better than last year…
…cue mass-hysteria over baubles, broken fairy lights and mince pies.
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However, as we get on a bit sometimes the hype doesn’t quite match the big day itself. The logistics of Christmas seem to overrule the fun and puts such a downer on my festive feeling that not even The Pogues can cheer me up. Thoughts usually include: “I’m now poor from a far too aggressive shopping spree for my ridiculously large family’s Christmas presents. When am I going to find the time to make sure I get to see the other half of the family and catch up with friends? And I swear on my mulberry handbag, if I have to look at another brussel sprout I will scream.”
I know what you’re thinking – first world problems, right? But seriously, where is my me-time? Simply put, Christmas can be crazy stressful and quite frankly, sometimes I just want to run away and hide.
“But where can I go?” I hear you cry.
Lucky for you (oh-so smart reader of The Flash Pack Blog), we have some suggestions for your perusal. So grab a mince pie and enjoy our list of the top 9 Alternative Christmas Experiences for the Escape Artist… it’s Christmas, get me out of here!
1. Nuremberg, Germany
Considering we go mad for a German Christmas market this time of year, it would be sacrilege to leave Germany off of our list. Forget Berlin, this is Germany’s number one Christmas city – as featured on this week’s Great British Bake Off Masterclass. If you are a sucker for alternative Christmas decorations or traditional trinkets as souvenirs, then this is the place for you. Enjoy the medieval atmosphere in the Old Town, take a stroll in the snow through the famous Chrsitkindl Markt and feast upon a plethora of mulled wine, Lebkuchen, Bratwurst and candy apples – perfect.
2. Zermatt, Switzerland
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… in Zermatt! Christmas tree, festive fireworks, traditional wooden chalets, big fat mountain caked in snow alongside a picturesque snowy village scene – Zermatt has it all! (That ‘big fat mountain’ being the technical term for The Matterhorn). How about channelling your inner ski-goddess and head somewhere that really will deliver a white Christmas. My advice would be to head for Zum See Restaurant for lunch; a wonky old 17th Century barn conversion situated up the mountain, complete with log fire and Fondue Thursdays. Go for the cremeschnitte (aka cream slice) aka little slice of heaven! If you haven’t been to Zermatt, now is the time to go… what on earth are you waiting for?
If you cringe at the thought of playing Christmas tunes any time before 1st December, then I have to say you should probably skip down to the next option. In the Philippines they start to get into the Crimbo spirit from as early as September and keep going all the way through until 6th January. The Spanish heritage of the Philippines has cultivated a deeply religious Christmas tradition, with roughly 90% of the population being Christian and 80% of those being Catholic. Things of note include the incredible Christmas light installations such as those at Ayala Triangle Gardens in the City of Makati, the Filipino Christmas latern called a Parol (symbolising the guiding star, which holds just as much significance as the Christmas tree) and of course Noche Buena; the grand family dinner after midnight mass. If you enjoy the Christmas hype, then the Philippines is definitely a great alternative Christmas destination for you.
4. Aalborg, Denmark
Go get sozzled in Denmark. Out of the Scandi nations, Denmark is like the rebellious, party-going cousin. The Danes say that ‘the snow falls’ in the first weekend of November (more eloquently put in Danish as Sneen Falder), which doesn’t mean they are all weather wizards and are predicting actual flurries of snow, but it in fact means that the Christmas beer will be released for mass consumption for these thirsty Vikings – hoorah! Head to Aalborg’s famous party street and bring on the potent cocktail of strong Danish beer and burn-your-throat aquavit.
5. Sydney, Australia
Certainly a favourite alternative Christmas destination… Sun. Sea. Surf. Seafood BBQ. A Santa Claus in shorts that looks an awful lot like that gorgeous lifeguard from yesterday? Not forgetting the World Famous Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race on Boxing Day. Sold.
6. Beijing, China
Ask about Christmas in China and most people will know what you’re on about – especially in the big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. However, this commercialised Christmas hasn’t succeeded in its WHAM campaign, leaving the older generation, country-bumpkins and smaller-city dwellers regarding Christmas as some kind of foreign mystery. They’re not missing out though as come 19th February 2015 the whole country will be celebrating Chinese New Year! Kind of like a celebratory spring cleaning festival, the Chinese welcome in the spring, spending some quality time with friends and family whilst spreading luck and good fortune to all. Complete with Chinese firecrackers, lanterns and traditional dragon dances, if you want an alternative Christmas experience in China, sack off old Saint Nick and get out to Beijing’s ancient temples for the Chinese New Year!
7. Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
For those celebrating Christmas in Kenya, it’s all about family. Don’t bother hanging around Nairobi at this time of year as most people return to their rural villages to spend quality time with their loved ones. Our suggestion: head out to the Maasai Mara National Reserve and go experience some of the 95 species of mammals that are wondering around the 1500-odd sq km of the reserve – it is said that this time of year is best for spotting the big cats and the recently finished ‘short rains’ deliver some damn good-looking landscapes. Picture yourself on Christmas Day, a kikoi elegantly draped over your shoulder, sipping on traditionally made honey beer with members of a Maasai tribe, after what can only be described as an EPIC safari experience. The question is: how many kikoi’s can you fit in your suitcase to take home as prezzies – those gorgeous things!
8. New Orleans, USA
City of Jazz, Blues, colour, eclectic cuisine and Louisiana voodoo. New Orleans has plenty to offer this time of year. The rich foodie culture gets even better at Christmas with many restaurants hosting a Reveillon dinner. Originally served after midnight mass on 24th December, Reveillon is the reincarnation of a traditionally Creole holiday custom; a feast designed to reawaken the senses and celebrate the joys of the season – sounds quite tempting as an alternative Christmas dinner, doesn’t it? On top of what would be a food-gasmic Christmas experience, you can’t forget to get yourself down to the original Cafe du Monde Coffee Stand in New Orleans French Market (opened in 1862), for a slice of history and some sugar-dusted Beignets in light of the festive season.
9. Rio de Janiero, Brazil
Home of Christ the Redeemer himself, it’s no wonder that Christmas is a massive deal in Rio. With cultural influences from across Europe, many of Brazil’s Christmas traditions are not too far from home – midnight mass, the creation of nativity scenes (known as Presépio) and, of course, Christmas trees. But not just your average Christmas tree. In Rio, you can come across the world’s largest floating Christmas tree fashioned from electric lights. This year’s tree is 85m in height, has 3.1 million micro lightbulbs, and weighs in at a hefty 540 tons. Go check it out at Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon.
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If you fancy sacking off Christmas altogether, why not come and join us on our Vietnam and Cambodia trip, or perhaps to the untouched paradise of Myanmar? Give us a call or drop us an email to discover what we can do for you.
Images: Flash Pack, Shutterstock