20 Dec

A Travellers Christmas: Tom From Active Backpacker

Some travellers love Christmas
 and lament that they can’t be home. Others enjoy the escape from the consumerism and endless carolling (put me in that camp!) and some look for the quirky that happens when other cultures interpret Christmas in their own land. I asked some traveller friends to share how they see and spend Christmas on the road; it’s like a peek into Christmas Around The World.

You can see all the ‘A Travellers Christmas’ posts here.

In three years, Trudy and I will have three completely different Christmas experiences. Let me elaborate.

The First Christmas

Christmas? That’s in summer, right?

Well, that’s what I’m used to anyway.

Christmas in Australia is normally HOT. It means sun, sand and a barbecue. Since living in Europe, I’ve come to realise this is not quite normal, and dare I say it, even a bit weird!

We still have Santa Claus (and he dresses the same), there are still Christmas Trees, snow decorations and light shows – it’s just not cold and we spend the day outside. Oh, and don’t forget the smorgasbord of seafood, tasty (cold) salads and fresh white bread rolls. There’s normally cool beverages with sausages and onions having a sizzle on a nearby BBQ.

For example, these were taken on Christmas day back in Australia. We were at the beach, of course.

Christmas Kites

As a kid you tend to around half naked with your new toys. A cricket game with the neighbours is a common plan for the afternoon. By the evening everyone is exhausted from overeating combined with a mild case of heatstroke.

What’s weird is this hybrid of “Christmas” that Australia has come up with. We’re proud of our summer Christmas but at the same time we try to convince ourselves we’re in sub-zero temperatures. We play Christmas songs themed around winter and snow and being warm inside. Our Santa still sweats it out in those hot looking red pants, a heavy jacket and a huge hat (poor guy).

The Second Christmas

Last Christmas we happened to be with my family in The Netherlands. Christmas in Holland really begins about 3 weeks before the 5th of December when Sinterklaas arrives from Spain (yes, you heard that correctly). He shows up with his helpers known as Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) and begins to travel the country.

On the night of the 5th of December, if you’ve been nice (and not naughty) Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Piets will distribute the presents. If you’ve been naughty, you run the risk that Zwarte Piet will put you in his sack and whisk you back to Spain (sounds good to me).

Sinterklaas Arriving

Trudy and Zwarte Piet

Christmas time in The Netherlands means Pepernoten (soft aniseed flavoured treats) and Kruidnoten (cinnamon flavoured biscuits), chocolate letters (weirdly common) and a warm evening family meal of some kind, either traditionally Dutch or not.

The Third Christmas

This year we are going to celebrate Christmas in Canada. I hear it’s going to be cold there. Like -20 degrees celsius cold. Umm, that’s not cold that’s REALLY cold. It’s almost guaranteed snow though, and that’s what Christmas is all about (sometimes in Australia we put out “fake” snow, that’s almost as good, right?).

To me, that’s exciting. It’s like what Christmas is supposed to be with a Turkey and roasted vegetables, warmth emanating through the house (maybe I’m asking too much, but perhaps a crackling fire too?) and good conversation. We happen to be celebrating it with my girlfriend’s mother and her new Canadian husband. The best part is, the family all speak French! That will certainly be a fresh Christmas experience for us!

It’s certainly fun to be travelling and in new places to try out how other people “do” Christmas. So wherever you may be, I wish you a merry Christmas and a fantastic start to the New Year!


Tom and Trudy of Active Backpacker love backpacking through Europe and Asia. Having lived and travelled in Europe, they feel comfortable offering tips, guides and advice about that area especially. Please follow along on Facebook and Twitter: @activebackpackr for more stories & adventures.


2 thoughts on “A Travellers Christmas: Tom From Active Backpacker

  1. This is my cousin’s first Christmas in Australia and she’s finding it a bit weird, even though she grew up part of her life in southern California and in Spain. Looks like it could be fun though!
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