Some Kimchi with your Turkey, Ajamma? Another cocktail or an Ice-cream Miss Clause? Some more fish stew with that Injera, Miss? With Christmas just around the corner, I am suddenly left reminiscing about all the other Christmas’ spent abroad in distant lands, far removed from the traditional Irish Christmas day.
This year, as many of you know, I will be spending my favourite holiday of the year in South Korea, a country that I have grown to love. Despite this fact, the sad reality is that Koreans don’t really celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense so I will have to compromise, settling for a roast Chicken from a street vendor rather than the traditional Turkey, time spent with friends instead of family and rocking around a Karaoke room rather than the Christmas tree!
All my years of travelling have taught me that just because something is different to what you have been brought up with does not make it worse. As the saying goes “Diversity os the Spice of life”. This goes for everything; from people, to countries, to food, to how people celebrate holidays around the world.
Last year I spent Christmas day on Bondi Beach. clichéd? Yes. But also an absolutely unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Tens of 1000’s of bikini clad backpackers, chilling out with newly made friends, sipping cheap wine out of a box and breaking it down at Bondi Pavillion at Sunburnt Christmas Djs, renowned worldwide. There may not be Turkey, or presents or family, but there will be wet t-shirt competitions, beautiful sunshine, beer for breakfast and friends you will have forever. Also, the sight of a sea of red and white on one of the most famous beaches on earth is truly something special.
Three years ago, I spent a summer backpacking across Ethiopia. It was not planned, (my flights were booked 3 days before leaving) but it was one of the most eye-opening experiences in my life thus far. Not many people go on holidays to Ethiopia. It’s not exactly the “in” place to spend your summer vacation. In fact, truth be told, I don’t know ANYONE else that has ever randomly decided to go backpacking through one of the poorest countries on Earth, but that’s the exact reason I wanted to go.
What I didn’t realise was that Ethiopia uses a completely different calendar to most of the western world. They still use the Julian calender, and so, are exactly 7 1/2 year behind our Gregorian calender. Confused yet? I was! So as I was trekking up through the Bale mountains in rural Southern Ethiopia, with an awful stomach ache and fever (which later turned out to be a mild case of Dengue Fever) I noticed the date on my bus ticket. 25/12/1999.
There I was puking my guts out in some adorable little mountain hut, while two child shepherds looked on in bewilderment, as I was treated my a local medicine man who insisted I rub some sort of red flower all over my face then eat it, whilst on the inside thinking “I can’t believe this is where I am on Christmas Day.” And also feeling slightly disoriented at the fact that I had somehow travelled back in time to the Nineties!!
So my friends, family and readers, wherever you ar this Christmas, whether you are celebrating in a traditional way or not, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year. Thanks for reading! x