Christmas on Four Continents

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” – Norman Vincent Peale

It is the time for Christmas – a time for joy, celebration and reflection, a time to look back to the year that has passed and prepare for the year ahead.

Looking back many years, the Christmas caught me in some unusual places such as in the airplane flying from Toronto to Bucharest, in a deserted lounge of the Lagos airport, near the bridge over the river Kwai in Thailand, on the top of Carpathian Mountains or at a cabaret show in Havana.

Africa

Christmas in Banjul, the Gambia

On December 24, 2010 I was preparing myself for Christmas – alone in the business lounge of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria – accompanied by bottles of whiskey, listening to the music of Asha and watching the waitresses dancing. Part enjoyment, part anxiety, since, reluctantly, I had to surround my passport to a plain-clothed official and I wasn’t sure if the guy really worked for the Lagos airport.

Bottles Christmas tree - Banjul, the Gambia

Bottles Christmas tree – Banjul, the Gambia

Longer I was waiting, more worrisome I become. The night came, the waitresses were long gone and the only friend remaining was Mr. Johnny Walker. 11 hours in waiting! Finally I got my passport back in time to catch the connection to my final destination: Banjul.

Children in Banjul, Christmas

Children in Banjul, Christmas

Even if Islam is the main religion in Gambia, snippets of Christmas can be found in Banjul such as Christmas trees and children celebrating the holiday on the streets.

Church art - Ile de Goree, Senegal

Church art – Ile de Goree, Senegal

First day in Banjul, the Christmas Day! Big celebration at a beautiful villa overlooking the Atlantic ocean. Thanks to my Taiwanese friend, Joyce. The night ended by spilling red wine on my best travel shirt that happened to be white! A Christmas to remember in a very unusual destination.

America

Christmas in Toronto, Canada

“The best carols in the world are the American carols!”

Nearly 20 years ago I set foot in the beautiful country of Canada. My first Christmas in 1997 was in a basement apartment shared with other newcomers. Humble, full of hopes and dreams, we gathered around a Christmas tree and we were looking back and into the future of our lives. Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).

Santa Claus Parade, Toronto

Santa Claus Parade, Toronto

The holiday preparations in Toronto are impressive. The houses and trees are decorated with Christmas lights, Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer ornaments – and if there is snow, you are like being in a fairyland! The dreamy, celebratory mood is enhanced by the beautiful North American carols.

Many splendid Christmas songs have come from U.S. composers, including “White Christmas,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” and “The Christmas Song”. (Family Christmas Online)

Clowns, Santa Claus Parade

Clowns, Santa Claus Parade

Do not miss the Christmas celebrations in Toronto:

  • The Cavalcade of Lights: the first illumination of Toronto’s Official Christmas Tree followed by a fireworks show
  • The Santa Clause Parade
  • The Carol concerts (different places)
  • The Hudson’s Bay store window displays
The Bay Christmas window display

The Bay Christmas window display

Enchanted Forest, the Hudson's Bay window display

“Enchanted Forest” – the Hudson’s Bay window display, 2016

Typical Christmas dinner includes turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and vegetables such as carrots, turnip, parsnips. For dessert: pumpkin or apple pie. And for drinks the ‘eggnog’ – a milk-based punch mixed with alcohol.

Santa Claus Parade, Toronto

Santa Claus Parade, Toronto

Santa Claus Parade, Toronto

The Parade on Bloor Street West in front of Honest Ed’s discount store, Toronto

Santa Claus Parade, Toronto

“Ginger Bread” at Santa Claus Parade

Asia

Christmas in Thailand

It is unusual to celebrate Christmas at +30 degrees Celsius. Two years ago during Christmas I was in Thailand visiting the historical place known as “The Bridge Over the River Kwai”. It was a special celebration, being together with my Romanian/Australian friend Julian and my future wife, Sassy. A romantic Christmas dinner near the river with candle lights and good Australian red wine!

In Bangkok, especially in the tourist areas are Christmas trees decorations and… big rabbits, a world of Snoopy and many Miss Santa Claus!

Christmas decorations, Bangkok

Christmas decorations, Bangkok

Hot Christmas in Thailand

A hot Christmas in the world of Snoopy

Snoopy Christmas, Bangkok

Snoopy Christmas, Bangkok

Miss Thai Santa Claus

Miss Thai Santa Claus

Europe

Christmas in Sibiu and Brasov, Romania

“If you want to experience the Roman Empire feasts, go to Romania for Christmas!”

The best time to celebrate Christmas is with your family. Being born in Romania, the Christmas was always celebrated, despite the hardships of communism. Even then, we still had a Santa Claus. It was just called “The Old Frozen Man” – so the Communist Party was distancing himself from any religious connection.

Romania has wonderful Christmas traditions, unique in the world, especially in the countryside.

Sibiu Christmas Market

Sibiu Christmas Market

Sibiu Christmas Market seen from the old Tower of the Council

The Market seen from the old Tower of the Council, Sibiu

Balcescu pedestrian street in Sibiu during Christmas

Balcescu pedestrian street in Sibiu during Christmas

One tradition is going “caroling” just before Christmas. Groups of friends go from house to house “caroling” their way in. If you don’t sing a carol, you are not allowed in. Once inside, a feast of food and drinks starts!

The main Christmas dish is pork, but also cabbage rolls and many sweets, highly regarded being the “cozonac” (kind of Panetone). The drinking can last all night long! It starts with the traditional “tzuica” – a strong drink similar with vodka, but made from plums – and followed by wine or beer (with lot of food in between).

Warning: in an average three weeks trip to Romania during holidays you will gain about 4 kilograms to your weight. Let’s call them the happiness weight add-ons!

Brasov Christmas Market, Romania

Brasov Christmas Market, Romania

Christmas carousel Brasov

Christmas carousel Brasov

Christmas Market Brasov

Christmas Market Brasov

Brasov Christmas Market – The Council Square

Brasov Christmas Market – The Council Square

A Christmas in Romania is truly recommended.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

10 Comments on “Christmas on Four Continents

  1. Lovely to see your Christmas Adventures Ovi! Merry Christmas to you and your lovely wife Sassy!

  2. Thanks Ovi, I really enjoyed my whistlestop tour around the world at Christmas. Very interesting and entertaining, and spectacular photos!

  3. Merry Christmas Ovi and Sassy ! Great stories and photos. Hope to see you guys soon!

  4. Merry Christmas Ovi and Sassy! Enjoyed reading your Christmas adventures and lovely photos as always! All the best for 2017!

    Your friend,

    Julie

  5. Wonderful post! Interesting to see how different cultures spend Christmas and I sure am envious you get to experience them. Awesome adventures!

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