“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 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.s
Christmas in Banjul, the Gambia
Just before Christmas, on December 24, I found myself 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 quite sure if the guy really worked for the Lagos airport.
Longer I was waiting, more worrisome I became. The night arrived, 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.
Even if Islam is the main religion in Gambia, snippets of Christmas can be seen in Banjul such as Christmas trees and children celebrating the holiday on the streets.
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.
Christmas in Toronto, Canada
“The best carols in the world are the American carols!”
More than 20 years ago I set foot in the beautiful country of Canada. My first Christmas here 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).
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)
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
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.
Christmas in Thailand
It is unusual to celebrate Christmas at +30 degrees Celsius. Sometime 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 old friends. 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 in Transylvania, 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.
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-week trip to Romania during holidays you may gain about 4 kilograms to your weight. Let’s call them the happiness weight add-ons!
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!
- Adventures in West Africa: Banjul, the Gambia
- Stories from Thailand
- Stories from Canada
- A Beautiful Castle in Transylvania