Top Places for Expats to Spend Christmas
We know that Christmas can be one of those bittersweet holidays for expats. As much as you may want to go home, sometimes that’s just not possible – be it for financial reasons, or due to work commitments. Fret not, however, as Team Currency UK have got your back. Call us optimistic, but we think Christmas is just around the corner. So, we’ve gone ahead and compiled our top picks for the cities to eat, drink, and be merry in, across the globe this holiday season.
Christmas in India is Christmas with a twist. In Goa, you’ll get the chance to sample a unique Christmas dinner, in which the traditional turkey is replaced with a roast suckling pig and eaten with a range of delectable curries, such as sorpotel (pork curry). And that’s not all – Goans have a wide range of Christmas desserts to sweeten the deal and prepare you for the lively beach parties that take place across the region during the holidays. Plus, December is the perfect time to visit the state, as it’s the dry season and you’ll be basking in temperatures averaging a balmy 28 degrees celsius – win win!
Based in Southeast Asia and unsure where to spend Christmas? How about the home of the longest Christmas season in the world? In the Philippines, preparations and holiday festivities begin on 1st September, and don’t end until the first Sunday of January! The country’s unique position as a majority Roman Catholic country in Southeast Asia also means that you’ll also have the opportunity to take part in Simbang Gabi, a nine-day series of night masses leading up to Christmas Eve across the city’s stunning churches.
When you think of Christmas, Cairo is perhaps not one of the first places that come to mind – but it should be! Celebrating the festival in Egypt is a fantastic experience, and, as the large majority of the country’s Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Christmas traditions you take part in will be very different to what you may be used to. Most notably, the holiday is actually celebrated on January 7th and not on December 25th. So, if you’re able to take a slightly later winter holiday, head to Old Cairo – the heart of the city’s Coptic community – and join the Egyptian Coptics for ceremonies in the magnificent Hanging Church.
Cape Town, South Africa
As one of the world’s most culturally and physically diverse countries, South Africa is a fantastic option if you’d like to shake things up at Christmas time – but just a little bit. If you’re used to the likes of a traditional European, American, or Canadian Christmas, South Africa’s festivities won’t feel too unfamiliar. While you can expect the usual line-up of carol singers and Christmas markets, you can also expect to try the classic roast turkey dinner – but with a unique smoky twist. This comes from cooking the food on the braai, which is South Africa’s answer to the barbeque – but with one big difference: it’s wood-fired. Yum. After you’ve tucked into your sumptuous Christmas meal, we recommend you join the Capetonians in admiring the Christmas light display twinkling down Adderley Street.
Prague, Czech Republic
With its enchanting palaces, beautifully decorated streets and alleys, and perfect winter weather, it’s not hard to see why Prague is consistently classed as one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Europe. Quite possibly the best thing to do in the city this holiday season? Grab a cup of toasty mulled wine and stroll through the world-famous Christmas markets, especially the magnificent Old Town Square Market. If you have plenty of time on your hands, be sure to head further afield to relax in the fantastic ski resorts located near the city.
Now, we wouldn’t be Currency UK if we didn’t advocate for our home city as a contender for one of the best spots to ring in Christmas in Europe! Although Christmas markets aren’t in short supply in the capital, what truly distinguishes it during the festive season is the extensive line-up of pantomimes. The uniquely British tradition of attending – and taking part in – one of these family-friendly musical comedies is simply perfect for getting into the Christmas spirit. And once you’re full of that festive cheer, it’s time to explore! While heading to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland and checking out the lights on Oxford Street are tried-and-tested favourites in London, might we suggest you venture out to the city’s slightly less conventional Christmas experiences? For one, Christmas at Kew Gardens is a magical sight that we don’t think anyone should miss…
North and South America
Festivals are an extravagant affair in Colombia, and Christmas is no exception, especially in Medellín. The city is home to El Alumbrado Navideño de Medellín, one of the largest Christmas light displays in the world – made up of more than 31 million LED lights and 50,000 hand-woven figures! What’s more, if you’re lucky enough to fly out early in December, you’ll not only be celebrating Christmas, but also the Day of the Little Candles. This celebration – which is unique to Colombia – takes place on December 7th every year and sees the country’s streets, homes, and historic landmarks lit up with candles and lanterns to honour the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
Quebec City, Canada
There is no better word to describe Canada at Christmas time than ‘magical’. If you’re based in the Americas and are after a cosy, storybook, celebration, we suggest heading to Quebec City for a little taste of Europe. You’ll get the chance to walk through the city’s beautiful, meandering streets and take in all the picturesque scenery and historic architecture it has to offer. And as if that wasn’t enough, at the end of November, Old Quebec is transformed into a Christmas Village – a dreamlike wonderland of lights, endless decorations, and lovely little market stalls. All complemented – of course – by the beautifully white, fluffy snow the city has to offer.
So, there we have it. While spending the holiday season away from home and from loved ones can be difficult, there is certainly no shortage of incredible Yuletide celebrations waiting to be experienced around the world – no matter where you may be based. So, treat the situation as an opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a delightfully different way, and as a chance to embark on a brand new adventure. Let’s get planning.