Despite no dedication to religion, I have to admit the cosy festivities of Christmas hard to resist. Whether summer or winter, I always look forward to the day when everything just stops for a while. There’s no television adverts, plenty of good food, and family and friends come together to enjoy each others company.
In December 2016 I started this post to bring together some of the amazing humans I had come to know while overseas, to showcase a little bit about where they’re from, where they’ve been and how different people spend the festive season. A year on I thought why not turn it into somewhat of a rolling beast to be added to as the years go on.
Gothic Charm in Bruges, Belgium – 2016
Few cities do gothic charm as well as Brugge, with all those cobble stones and curvy canal streets, but the key to staying anywhere for Christmas is making sure you have like-minded souls to spend it with. Since we’d had such an enjoyable hostel hangout in Stockholm the previous year, we decided to do the same again and booked ourselves into the The Bauhaus, St Christopher’s Hostel. On arrival a full house of tour groups meant we were upgraded to a private room. It wouldn’t feature in any list of Europe’s design hostels, but it certainly had the old world charm I was after.
Christmas eve we spent in the hostel bar, chatting over a local brew or two. Christmas day was a relatively quiet but cosy affair, as unlike our fellow travellers in Stockholm, the tour groups had plans of their own. The next two days were a culmination of every delicacy available in and around the market square, including many Belgian waffles, beers and hot chocolates. We also visited many of the cities main attractions including De Halve Maan brewery, the Belfry and a convent. If you’re looking for the perfect place to spend a European Christmas, this one really is hard to beat. Brugge brings the perfect European city break!
Hostel Hangouts in Stockholm, Sweden – 2015
Christmas of 2016 was the first I had ever spent away from home and since I left to go backpacking through Europe in late October, I awoke on Christmas day in a fourteen bed dorm with David in the bunk below. Initially I wondered whether being in a hostel over Christmas would be a lonely and miserable experience, but was pleasantly surprised to find the cosyness and sociability of the City Backpackers Hostel very enjoyable.
In Sweden their main day to Celebrate Christmas is actually on the 24th December, however on the morning of the 25th we gathered all the travellers we could muster, borrowed ice-skating boots and traipsed to the nearby park which had been covered over in ice for everyone to enjoy. When we returned to the hostel there was warm Glogg (mulled wine) waiting. Later on we all came together again in the hostels dining room to cook and eat and be in good company.
Enchanted in Vancouver, Canada – 2015
Christmas in Canada is one of my favourite times of the year. There’s radio stations dedicated specifically to Christmas music, there’s chilliness in the air, and there’s truly a feeling of Christmas everywhere you go.
In my family, we absolutely love Christmas, and start decorating as early as just after Remembrance Day (November 11th). I’m given the task of head baker, making any and all Christmas treats. My sister is the Christmas DJ in charge of music, while my parents are in charge of putting our (9ft tall) tree together.
Vancouver is one of my favourite places to be during the holidays because there are just so many activities. This year in late November I went home for two weeks, and spent a few days in the city. The mountains were dusted with fresh snow and were the backdrop for the city’s Christmas market. As a new addition this holiday season, we are home to the world’s largest Christmas lights maze called Enchant, which has a small market, live music, food trucks, and hundreds of thousands of beautiful lights!
Usually on Boxing or New Years Day, our family would head out to one of the 10 ski hills surrounding Vancouver dressed in toques (UK English: Bobble Hats, US English: Beanies) and mittens for some tobogganing. One of my favourite memories was my dad and I heading to the closest mountain to our house called Hemlock for an evening ski. We went around 6:30pm, so it was basically just us.
Warm wishes to everyone this holiday season!
#FestiveFanFair in the UK and Europe continues over on the WorldFanFair YouTube channel.