Christmas in a Warm Climate

My first Christmas in the southern hemisphere took place in 1973 when I arrived in  Cape Town after journeying overland from London via India then a ship from Mumbai to the port of Durban. Arriving in South Africa instead of Australia, which was where my destination was meant to be, was a bit of a shock. Having to pay for a ticket by boat out of the country was another shock and left me with very little money.

In South Africa, Christmas is in summer of course. Arriving in Cape Town after several days of hitch-hiking and seeing decorations including snowmen, Christmas trees and robins decorating the city was somewhat strange. Blue skies and sunshine with snowmen felt at odds. It was the strangest of times as I have explained before, in that I was working at a hotel in the city in the florist department, making table posies and helping with the suite decorations. I was staying with my travelling companion’s family until Christmas Eve when it was decided that I didn’t ‘fit’ and was told to leave.

My first Christmas in a warm climate was spent working in the hotel and then returning to the youth hostel where I had been lucky enough to find a bed. And on arriving back at the hostel I was invited to share the Christmas dinner that had been created by other ‘inmates’. It was not the best of days until then, as I was feeling very homesick, but I was made welcome and introduced to some lovely people, including a couple of New Zealand girls that I was able to spend time with in the coming month.

On that particular Christmas there were no presents, no turkey or Christmas pudding or even carol singing and no friends or family. So I am no stranger to an unusual Christmas such as many of us are facing this year.


But there were other Christmases in the sun as I remained in South Africa for many more years. Usually Christmas Day was spent on the beach, having a braai (barbeque) at home with friends or cold meats and salads (at the in laws in the Eastern Cape where it was even hotter). We still had a fir tree and decorations. And once I even cooked a full English Christmas dinner, but it was hot work!

But Christmas in a warm climate never really ever felt like Christmas.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #128 |So this is Christmas

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I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

48 thoughts on “Christmas in a Warm Climate”

  1. Merry Christmas, Jude, and thank you for a lovely story from your traveling life. I have only spent one single Christmas outside of Sweden, and that was in New Zealand. It was a wonderful Christmas, but not at all Christmassy. It seems we are heading that way here too…warmer and warmer. We haven’t had any snow for almost two years. Today was the first really frosty day.
    Wishing you Happy Holidays and hopes for a Better New Year. May your garden grow!

    1. Thanks A-C glad you enjoyed my story. We’re expecting quite a storm tomorrow, seems like these are more common these days. Far too much rain, and other countries having droughts.

      1. Yes…troubles are everywhere when we cannot act properly, we humans. I wonder if we totally lack the capacity of learning from history and science.

  2. Jude, you have led a very interesting life! Weirdly, we were brought up with images of a winterish looking Christmas and a hot house while our mothers slaved away in the kitchen to produce a hot meal. All tree decorations and cards had the Northern Hemisphere type images on them. Pleased to say that has now changed though for those who like that sort of stuff it is still available :-). I must admit I do love the snowy images and enjoyed being in France and Cornwall when it snowed!

    1. Those Northern settlers took their Victorian traditions with them wherever they went! I’m now wondering whether Christmas existed in the southern hemisphere. You’d think any sort of festival would take place around the winter solstice, as in fact it did here.

      1. Maori have Matariki as a celebration. It marks the rising of the Pleiades (so mid-winter). There is still lots of Victorian European imagery and tradition involved in Christmas here— but we’re getting better at forging our own identity. Jacinda has promised that Matariki will become a public holiday — it will be interesting to see how quickly it becomes commercialised ☹️

        Like Anabel, I still feel aggrieved on your behalf at the eviction. Hope this Christmas proved more relaxed (if equally memorable).

        1. Thanks for the information Su. That’s what I was thinking about, traditions before Christianity and settlers arrived with their Victorian traditions. I personally think we should ditch some of those here, and have less commercial celebrations.

  3. Happy Christmas, Jude. For us a warm summer Christmas is the norm and a delicious meal with tasty salads and desserts is usually eaten outside. It’s the perfect way to celebrate.

  4. I enjoyed your account of very different Christmases. And here we are with another one, passed in the comfort of our own homes. I hope you had a good day.

  5. I’ve spent many Christmases in hot climates too and it is definitely odd, better if you don’t try to eat turkey and Christmas pudd! But I enjoy the different ways that Santa Claus arrived. I’ve seen him come on a sled through the snow in Sweden, on a surf-board from the sea in Africa, and on a donkey in Samoa (heavily tattooed as well). All were fun times in those days of yore – how far away they seem now¬

  6. Such an interesting story Jude. I can certainly understand you being homesick. Even after 60 years living down under with Christmas in summer I still cannot summon that festive feeling and it is the only time I feel sad over here, even when surrounded by family, friends and lots of love. But it is only for one day, then I bounce back and love and appreciate this beautiful country.
    I hope you had a lovely day and best wishes for 2021, filled with health, happiness and the joy of your garden 🤗🌷🌸🥂

    1. Thanks PP. You too! A shame your Christmas plans were scuppered, but hopefully you will get to Sydney before too much longer.

  7. I love that first photo of the bird of paradise flower – they always looks so exotic. That first Christmas in South Africa must have been hard on a young person – but I’m glad it all had a happy ending, resulting in many years spent there. 🙂

    1. It wasn’t the best of starts, but I did like living there, though my one regret in life is that I didn’t continue to Australia. But then I wouldn’t have had the life (or children) that I have had, so it may have been a better or worse life and I will never know.

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