Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Traveling for Christmas

This year will mark my third Christmas in California, making it an official tie with the number of times I actually spent the holidays in Minnesota.

I lived in Minnesota for almost 8 years but, because winter breaks were so conveniently timed around the holidays, Joe and I always took advantage of the month-long break to travel somewhere. As a result, we ended up spending Christmas in different places around the world, like Peru, England, Tanzania and China.

Every place we’ve been to had a very different Christmas spirit. Some places feel like they came out of a movie about Christmas. One such place is San Francisco, where the streets are nicely decorated, the sound of carols come out of every store, the cable cars are covered in lights and other decorations, and the streets are buzzing with amazing energy as December 25th gets closer and closer.

Yes, not everyone celebrates Christmas. In fact, many other holidays like Hanukah and Kwanza, happen around the same time, but the holiday spirit, regardless of your religion or set of beliefs, is strong everywhere, I think.  In my case, I celebrate Christmas and that’s how I interpret the joy of this season!


Around mid and late December, everybody seems excited about the end of the year, and the cheer of the holiday season. I personally love the energy that emanates from people around this time of the year!

In San Francisco, I have really enjoyed admiring the larger-than-life decorations that adorn most buildings downtown. I also love the ginormous tree in the middle of Union Square, right next to the large Menorah, right next to one of the ice skating rinks that open for the holidays. The other rink is on the Embarcadero. At the entrance oft eh Golden Gate Park, one of the large trees has been covered with lights and a sled pulled by reindeer adorns the grassy area underneath it.

All the lights, all the decorations, they all add to the celebratory feeling!

Fancy hotels, like the Fairmont, put up incredibly decorations. The Fairmont, in particular, creates a gigantic ginger bread house every year. It’s so big you can walk through it. There’s even a small train that runs through the entire house!

Christmas in San Francisco is so much fun. Another place where the Christmas energy really captures you is London, England. In fact, one of the main reasons why I love the tree at Union Square in SF is that it reminds me of the even larger tree in Trafalgar Square in London.

We visited London for a couple of days on our way to Tanzania, and we ended up spending half of Christmas day there, before flying out. The days leading to Christmas, we walked around London and loved the spirit of the season there!

Arriving to Tanzania in Christmas mainly meant that everything was closed. In London we encountered this same (totally understandable) problem when we attempted to visit the National Gallery.

Because most things we closed, we visited a church in Dar Es Salaam that was nicely decorated for the holidays.  Because Tanzania is a religiously diverse country, Christmas decorations were not something we saw. This sure was a different Christmas, but we still loved being somewhere else, celebrating in different ways!

The Christmases we have spent in Peru have been with my family. The one thing that is unusual for U.S. people about Christmas in Peru is that it happens during summer time. To me, having Christmas during winter was very strange at first too, which shows how we simply get used to what’s around us!

Our Christmas in China was also the result of a month long trip during winter break. After spending a few days in Hong Kong, on December 24th, we took a train to Guanzhuo in China, and then took a bus to Yangshuo. It was on this bus that we welcomed Christmas.

We arrived at Yangshuo around 4 in the morning on Christmas day. The town was very quite, everything was closed, even our hostel. We walked around for an hour or so and found a bakery where we saw two women making bread, both of them wearing Santa hats!

There were some Christmas decorations in Yangshuo, however, the day went on as any other travel day. At random times, we would look at each other and remind ourselves that it was Christmas!

This brings me to the last random place where we have celebrated the holidays: Santa Barbara. Like San Francisco, Santa Barbara goes all out for Christmas. They cover all their palm trees with lights, they put up a giant tree, and all the stores do their part in adding to the holiday spirit.

While in Santa Barbara, we learned of a hidden street that gets all decorated for Christmas and we decided to drive there one night to take a look at it. The street was so much fun! Most of the houses were fully decorated from their yards all the way to their roofs! What an incredible oasis of holiday cheer!

This year, we’ll be spending Christmas in Gualala, a small town located on the border of Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. It should be lots of fun! We have booked a cabin for a wee. Our cabin is right no on the ocean cliff, which should be fun for watching the massive storm that is approaching this part of the country.


I’m very excited about the down time up in the cabin, but I’m also really looking forward to some good photo taking!

I hope you enjoyed my photos of the holidays. For more fun photos, visit my Etsy store at:

Check out my blog next week for fun photos of Gualala! In the meantime, happy holidays to all of you!!! And may all your dreams come true on 2013!

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