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Living Overseas: 5 Glimpses at Christmas Abroad

By Betsy Burlingame


Summary: Expats in Chile, Sweden, Japan, Scotland and Australia share their experiences celebrating Christmas abroad.

Living Overseas - 5 Glimpses at Christmas Abroad

Christmas in Stockholm, Sweden

Don't miss the Old Town Christmas Market in Stortorget Square in Stockholm. This charming market, run by Stockholms-Gillet (The Stockholm Guild), sells high quality gifts and Swedish products and has been held every year since 1915. The market runs from the 2nd to last Saturday in November through the 23rd of December.

Hogmanay in Scotland

"Hogmanay is THE big holiday in Scotland. It is a New Years celebration and lasts 2-3 days. Christmas is the big holiday in England; but Hogmanay is it for Scotland. Any local can acquaint you with a visiting ritual known as "First Footing." Do not even try to keep up with the New Years toasts. The people are very friendly and welcoming. We throughly enjoyed Braemar's Highland Gathering. We lived in banchory; which was about 30-35 miles away. The Queen and other Royals are in attendance for some of the festivities," explained one expat in Scotland.

Christmas in Sydney, Australia

"Well of course a very big difference is that it is summer here and that effects the way Christmas is celebrated. In the past, families used to sit down to your traditional UK style dinner, but over the years and with strong multicultural influences many people will sit down to seafood (prawns/lobster), a leg of ham, fresh salads, and fruit (mangoes and cherries in particular). Santa seems to rein here although you may hear an occasional reference to Father Christmas. You can buy real trees, but they don't seem to last long in the heat. Decorations deviate from the traditional red and green and have more of summer tones purple bright greens and turquoise. It's still common to hear carols in shops/malls dreaming of a White Christmas which is pretty strange really as is all the imagery of snow reindeers and sleighs. Christmas is a very outdoor event those of us near the coast may go dowm to the beach for "breakie" with friends {Bondi Beach here in Sydney will be full of UK visitors perhaps drinking too much and getting burnt!!!!} Christmas presents will focus on the summer Flip flops.. swimmers.. beach towels... barbeques.. bikes.. surf and body boards and usually the weather is so nice you can use them straight away!! Christmas lights are quite big here with some whole streets lighting up together..of course on a warm summer evening after dark families will come out to see them. Christmas here also means the end of school year so it's a busy time with concerts, presentation nights, end of year dinners, etc. On Boxing Day we usually take a boat trip out on the habour to see the Sydney /Hobart Yacht Race start. A week later we all gear up to see the fireworks on the habour they are truely spectacular and worth the effort to see. There is a 9pm show for families followed by a bigger display at Midnight ," described one expat in Sydney.

Christmas in Tokyo, Japan

"Christmas is somewhat celebrated as part of the fascination with all things Western. People eat "Christmas cakes" (usually white cakes with white icing and strawberries) and fried chicken. It's considered a very romantic time and is a huge date night, similar to Valentine's Day in North America. Yes. I've gone out for a fancy dinner on Christmas in order to celebrate the holiday and have sung Christmas carols for my Japanese friends," said one expat in Japan.

Christmas in Santiago, Chile

"Christmas is a manic mix of end of school year, summer vacation and Christmas holiday all rolled up into one great big frenzy. The holidays decorations are up early here (some starting in October) and speed up through November. Household decorations appear to be only the Christmas tree. Decking out the halls and household seems to be left to the high end hotels. Some districts put on holiday events (Las Condes offered a light show with holiday music). Gift wrapped presents are not a big deal here. People purchase their items from the stores. The vendors will put a bow on the store bag and call it wrapped. Store bags may have some holiday motif and come with a seal to keep their contents a secret. Some stores are now offering gift wrapping as we know it in the USA. But you will be hard pressed to find "Hallmark" quality or quantity of wrapping paper. The main attraction in the home is the creche or "pesebre" with the baby Jesus missing from the manger until midnight Christmas Eve. Families will have holiday meals. Frozen turkey is beginning to become popular, but given it's summer many choose cold plates of meat, or asados/barbeques. The holiday drink is cola de mono, made with aguardiente, sugar, milk, coffee and spiced with cloves, cinnamon and orange zest. As midnight arrives the families may attend midnight mass. When they return the baby Jesus is placed in his spot and the presents are ripped opened. Santiago is at its quietest during this time as many families escape for the beach to cool off and begin summer vacations," described an expat in Santiago, Chile.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

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Dec 16, 2013 10:03

I'll be in Prague with my sweetheart 12/23 - 12/27 and attend Don Giovanni at the National Marionette Theatre in Old Town Prague; we'll go to Midnight Mass on the Square near Tyne Street on the 24th and send out Christmas cards to friends during the holidays there.

First Published: Dec 10, 2014

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