It’s almost Christmas, my absolute favourite time of the year, so why not look back at years gone by? Christmas jumpers, log fires and warming hot chocolates characterised my childhood Christmases – well, all except one.
When I was 14, my family and I swapped fluffy socks and woolly scarves for shorts and flip flops when we spent Christmas Day on Manly Beach in Australia. It was certainly a very different experience – for a start, I got sunburnt.
Indeed, it’s amazing how much of a difference the weather makes to festive celebrations. In Britain, we stay indoors and spend the whole day eating. Some of us might wrap up warm and brave the cold weather for a country walk, but the focus of the day is certainly on inside activities; for good reason – it gets dark by 4pm and let’s be honest, it’s usually raining.
But in Australia, I spent the day on the beach in 30 degree heat. The whole day was focused on being outside – although this was potentially heightened by the fact we were staying in a small hotel suite. And the huge, white sandy beach on our doorstep.
I far preferred the area in comparison to the city centre 11 miles away; my overwhelming memory of Sydney is grey concrete. The harbour side, Opera House and Bridge were undeniably impressive, but I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed by the city in general – Manly, however, I loved.
But spending Christmas Day there, lounging around on the beach and spending hours bodyboarding and snorkelling in the clear blue sea, was surreal. It really didn’t feel like Christmas at all, especially when we went to a steak-house for dinner rather than having the classic British roast.
The atmosphere in Manly was also incredibly social; large groups of friends were meeting on the beach to play cricket, cook barbecues or have picnics. The whole day felt more like a summer holiday than Christmas Day – then again, for Australians, I suppose that’s what Christmas is. It’s a summer festival, not a winter one.
Christmas in Australia was amazing, it was the trip of a lifetime and I’m desperate to go back and further explore the county – I’m already planning a trip after my graduation.
Yet I think I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to the festive period; I’m set in my ways, and I’m a fan of a British Christmas. Big roast dinners with all the trimmings, fairy lights illuminating otherwise dark streets and my secret wish each year for a white Christmas (which is at least plausible in the UK), make the festive period feel, well, festive.
In Australia the day was great fun, but it didn’t feel quite right.