So, I spent my holiday season throwing myself down a mountain, as has become a bit of a tradition. By that I mean I went snowboarding, by the way, in case you were confused. Christmas was great as the snow was okay, but then New Year’s Eve I got a very, very bruised bum because my snowboard washes out on ice. It hurt. I even bounced when I landed.
But then I had a gin and napped on the couch at 9 pm like the cool party-goer I am. You can read more about my strange, grape-filled New Year here over at the Ylva blog if you’re curious.
Writing that blog piece got me thinking about the differences between the holiday season in Spain, versus in Australia. This was my third round in the northern hemisphere, so I find I’m fairly well adapted and don’t really notice anymore. But then there are times when I’m teaching one of my English classes (as a foreign language, not something fancy such as English Lit) and I’ll mention having a BBQ on a beach one Christmas and my entire class blinks at me, confused. Sometimes there’s even mouth-gaping.
Because I come from a place in which Christmas can hit over 40 degrees Celsius (104F for you USA peeps). And for me, that was the norm forever.
But still my students can’t wrap their heads around it.
And I mean, I can see why not. All the Christmas movies are filled with snow, hot chocolate, roast dinners, frost, snowmen—that’s the stereotype. And they all come from a place in which I need a thousand layers to keep warm in December (most only wear one or two, I may be a bit pathetic in the cold).
But I grew up eating a late lunch of cold salads, chilled champagne (at the right age) and ice-cream, watching the drink-bottles sweat on the table. And us, of course. My family, in which I’m the only vegetarian, have a huge seafood lunch. Sometimes, we all walked down to the beach to meet my cousins and other family and there were picnics and BBQ’s and us kids would drag down our presents of new bathers, or body boards or beach cricket sets. We would spend the afternoon snorkelling, body surfing or jumping off the jetty, turning pink (never brown in my case, I’m pale as snow) under the hot sun and going home salty.
One year during uni, I couldn’t go back to my home town so we had Christmas with a group of friends and it involved a bathtub full of ice for us to cram all our drinks in, a baby pool in the backyard and playing rock paper scissors to see who had to get up to grab the hose, because the water was getting too warm.
New Years was often spent in the same fashion. I’ve never really gone out on the town for New Year. I spent them in someone’s backyard, having water fights and waving glow sticks around in our bathers, or shorts and thongs (see this blog post for an explanation on what they are) until the fireworks lit up the sky. We sometimes got up on our roof to watch them, the metal still hot under our backs even at midnight, the sky a blaze of colour and stars.
I’m not saying this is everyone’s Australian experience of December and January. But it was mine, and explaining it to people who are wishing you a Merry Christmas as they bundle up in coats to face the minus temperatures outside is always a good time.
I won’t lie, there are times I miss that side of Christmas. But this year, I was sitting on top of a snow-capped mountain on the 25th, my snowboard metres away and my face red from the wind, fingers a little numb from the cold. I face-timed my family, and the kids were all red from a day at the beach, hyperactive and high on sugar. It was seven o’clock in the evening there, and they were all still racing around their backyard in the heat. My brother teased me about the beautiful beach they’d been at and the great weather, so I turned my phone around to show off the Pyrenees surrounding me, and I realised then: I could never choose.
I love my beach Christmas. I love my cold, snowy Christmas.
The experiences of them are so utterly distinct from each other, but both so enjoyable.
So I’ll just content myself with whichever one I’m lucky enough to be in that year.
Anyone else experienced a holiday in a difference country? What was your take on it?