For those living away from home, Christmas can be a very different or much quieter affair. It’s often a time when expats embrace the festivities and cultures of a new country, who may celebrate Christmas differently or not at all. Some Expats will take Christmas as an opportunity to introduce new colleagues or friends to the Christmas festivities and traditions they grew up with, while some prefer to celebrate at home. However you’re planning to celebrate this year, whether at home or away, take a look at the outline of Christmas plans and traditions that we’ve put together to see how expats will be celebrating Christmas around the world.
Due to the country’s location in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas comes in the peak of summer for South Africa. A far cry from the snow and ice traditionally seen in the UK around this time of year, a South African Christmas comes with sunshine, flowers and long, hazy summer days. The actual celebrations are very similar to those held in the UK, so expats can experience the norm of presents in the morning, followed by a traditional Christmas meal later on in the day. The typical Christmas feast in South Africa is not dissimilar to what is enjoyed in the UK either, comprising of Turkey, Duck, Beef and Mince Pies, followed by Christmas Pudding. The primary difference for expats living in the country is the warm weather which allows the enjoyment of Christmas traditions outside, eating their meal in the garden or perhaps travelling to the countryside in the afternoon to go swimming and enjoy the warmer weather, just as the locals do.
In Saudi Arabia, where the only religion recognised or practised is Islam, Christmas is an affair rarely acknowledged in public. For expats working and living in the country, this means that Christmas is usually celebrated privately and within the home. There are no church services held for Christmas, but Christian Expats may hold their own holiday parties at home if they so wish.
Christmas in Australia is also celebrated in the summer months and as an increasingly multicultural country, expats can enjoy taking part in a variety of different Christmas traditions from across the world. Typically, the Christian traditions of Christmas trees, decorations and the gifting of presents are celebrated but due to the warmer climate, the traditional Christmas dinner is usually swapped for a barbeque in the backyard or even a picnic spread out on the beach. Even the drinks and desserts are made summer-ready, so that mulled wine becomes chilled Champagne and Christmas pudding becomes a Summer Pavlova. For many expats, Bondi Beach has also become a popular Christmas-Day destination, with up to 40,000 people visiting each Christmas day and celebrating late into the night.
Despite Christianity not being the primary religion in Singapore, it’s definitely a country that goes all out at Christmas time. Expats are treated to Christmas decorations and lights everywhere from Changi airport, through to the shopping centres and Botanical gardens. Many of the locals embrace traditional Christmas festivities such as carol singing and nativity plays and the atmosphere leading up to Christmas could rival the UK or US. While some expats choose to cook and celebrate at home, those in search of a, perhaps easier, Christmas dinner will find that many hotels cater for the large expat community by laying on lunches, complete with turkey, a large ham and many of the other traditional trimmings. The shops also stay open late over the Christmas period, making it great for last-minute shopping. For a country where the weather remains so hot throughout December, it appears that none of the Christmas traditions are spared for those visiting or living in Singapore.
Expats living in Hong Kong, can take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate over the festive season as most of the country embraces the festive traditions. The city also indulges, by filling its skyscrapers with lights and decorations. Schools do not shut on Christmas day, but they often hold the type of festive school fairs that we would usually associate with schools in the UK and Christian Churches will also hold religious services for traditional celebrations. Expats can choose to either cook their own Christmas meals or head out to a hotel or local restaurant and the main attraction to enjoy throughout the holidays is Winterfest. This is when Statue Square is transformed into what can only be described as a Winter Wonderland, complete with a huge, glittering Swarovski Christmas tree as well as carol singing and other Christmas-themed events.