Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog: walksmelbourne.com
Published October 24th 2012
Taking the 'family' out of Christmas
Away from your family this Christmas? Travelling the world? Working on Christmas Day? Living as an ex-pat in some exotic city? Not a time for moping or feeling like you have a big 'L' on your forehead: make it one of your best Christmases ever by opening your doors to all the other Christmas Orphans.
As an exchange student in Japan many years ago, I tragically once had to go to school on Christmas Day and was so underwhelmed by the experience that I realised then what a good thing a bit of ritual and celebration could be. I made a promise to myself then that I would never let another Christmas slip by without a celebration, even if of my own making. Since then, some of my best ever Christmases have been with other random Christmas 'orphans', so here's my tips for getting the Christmas Spirit moving when far from home:
1. Get the word out to fellow expats, travellers and random strangers you bump into down the street - the last factor is usually the most important.
2. Set a time (the date is sorted) and place - if no-one has digs big enough, make it in a park or at the beach (easier in Australia or other hot countries!), or if the climate isn't so kind, ask at the local council if there is a space or hall you can hire and all chip in.
3. Get everyone to bring a plate of something savoury and something sweet and a bottle of something liquid - and put in a special request for some traditional Christmas food from their own country/home.
Czech Christmas cookies - yum! Photo: Rémi Diligent wikimedia commons
4. Stock up on silly hats, noisy poppers and christmas crackers.
5. Don't forget the Christmas Pudding! If you get your act together early enough, consider ordering one of the Most Amazing Christmas Puddings On Earth from the Royal Flying Doctor Service Women's Auxiliary in Broken Hill - they make and deliver over 2000 a year, all over the world.
6. Get everyone coming to bring a silly Kris Kringle (random present) to the value of $10 each, and a $10 donation that everyone can chip in for some really fantastic charity - decide on the day who gets it!
7. Nominate someone to play Santa and have them give out the presents from a big, bottomless sack. If they are happy to don a red suit and a white beard, all the better! Make sure they ho-ho-ho and take turns taking pictures of all the orphans sitting on their knee.
8. Put a group on tree decoration duty (and be inventive with the tree - it can be a fallen branch from the park, a plastic wonderland from the supermarket, a second hand one fro the op shop, or the whole shebang if someone volunteers to bring the real real. Decorate on arrival with the music blaring and champagne cocktails flowing.
A Danish Christmas Tree - not like we'resetting the bar high, or anything! Photo: Malene wikimedia commons
I love it. No matter where I have been at Christmas time my motto is "Let's Party". Life is what you make it, so I agree, deck the halls and get ready for some fun. We even did a Santa present bag. I went to the cheap shops and got some great gifts for under $5. Just a bit of fun, nothing serious, plastic flute, drums, bubble makers, bouncy balls, cheap badmington kit, and when Santa arrived, everyone had a ball and played till their hearts content, finding the child in them again. GO CHRISTMAS!!!!