Tuesday 4 December 2012

Christmas north and south

This month's international BIO post asks us to consider the best Christmas we've ever had. For me this always involves a reflection on the merits of a northern versus southern hemisphere Christmas

Growing up in Europe conditioned me to the view that a cold, preferably white, Christmas is the only kind worth getting excited about. But after years spent in Cape Town, the special charms of an African summer Christmas worked their magic on me too.

source: www.littlegothichorrors.blogspot.com

One thing I did miss down south was the ritual of the tree. For years I peevishly and stubbornly hauled out an artificial tree every December, because it at least looked like the proper thing (sorry, my compadres, but those pines with the long spindly needles drooping sadly in all the wrong directions as though wilting in the heat,  just aren't christmas trees). 

source: www.expatcapetown.com

In earlier years living in Finland, surely the archetypal Santa-land, we used to simply wander a couple of feet into the dense forest around our rented lake cabin with an axe and (illegally, I'm sure) chop down our own. 

source: www.greenpeace.org

Here in the tame non-wilderness of England we head instead for the local commercial Christmas tree farm where we're greeted by a giant, tacky, waving Santa

and an ordered, labelled array of types and sizes ...

Getting the star on top requires team work

(and a supportive cast)

And with the likely prospect of another white Christmas, all is good and properly Christmassy. But sometimes I'm overwhelmed with nostalgia at this time of year for a December that looks like this ...

where these were the views from my toes in the sand 

and December summer living looked like this ...

(my last home in Cape Town)

and morning coffee on the balcony had this as backdrop ...

Christmas north or south ... which one does it for you?


  1. Wonderful, wonderful memories of Christmasses past!

    There are southern Christmasses in my past, too, although not in another hemisphere, only a day's journey south of Vienna, in Rome. When I think of Christmas to this day I hear the bagpipes of the Abruzzi shepherds and remember the scents of frankincense, burnt almonds, and of candied apples intermingling at the Piazza Navonna Christmas market. I'll always miss the smells and sounds of a Roman Christmas.

  2. Gorgeous post Karen...I have a very similar photo of my daughter and I dressing the tree...ah, such lovely memories. Yes, maybe a little snow here, fingers crossed...although I expect you would love to be dipping your toes in the crystal blue sea...thanks for popping by.
    Wishing you a very Happy Christmas.

  3. It has to be cold London with a real tree for me....since that is where I am!!! I cannot imagine being somewhere warm or hot at this time of year (appealing though it seems!)....although I love your descriptions & images of Christmas around the world :)

    Merry Christmas!

  4. Dear Karen,,, I lift a special glass of Bubbly to you with the full view of that gorgeous slab of Table Rock!! Our Mother City is as splendid as ever with her festive lights on and visitors pouring in!! I would simply love to have one White Christmas!!1 It always looks so romantic!! But yes, for us, it is sun, sea,sand and sauvignon!!! Have a blessed festive season dear friend and yes we frantically spray our Fresh Pine tree to keep it alive in the heat!!

    Festive cheer amd massive Cape Town hug to you!!!


  5. Wonderful post. Aren't pictures the best, a way of holding onto the past when time has gone by....cannot imagine my life without pictures to remember these magical holidays by. Thanks for sharing...happy holidays!

  6. I;m going for North...and I love your supporting cast. Have a great day. Mona

  7. Gosh, well, a most interesting question! Beautifully posed.
    One harks back, I think, to the Christmases of one's childhood (Essex in the 1950's for me) with a spindly tree, paper chains licked until you felt sick.....and lots of holly.
    Christmas in Morocco was a wonderful meld of sunbathing on the roof at noon and very chilly downstairs.
    One year in Jamaica Santa arrived on a boat.
    Reading Merisi's comment took me back to a splendid Christmas in Rome (circa 1975!)
    Wishing you all a most splendid celebration!

  8. Like you, I am torn... having had more hot ones than cold ones... I still enjoy the novelty of a European Christmas... xv

  9. Loving the photo of mother & daughter decorating the tree. And, it seems that no matter where we live the tradition of Christmas, the love we share, are the only important things, no matter what climate we have. Happy & Merry Christmas, Karen....

  10. I've had Christmases with my family in Sydney, Australia, and then Christmases with my own children in London, and now we're all in California which I guess is the middle!

  11. Wow! I must say (and I am surprised that I am) the South of the Border Christmas is looking pretty amazing to me!!! Because we both know it is all about the love. So if you can have that PLUS a dip in the sea, why not? ;) My folks lived in San Diego, California for 23 years and I loved my holidays there. Nothing like a walk on the beach after all of that champagne!
    Happy Holidays,
    Heather from Lost in Arles

  12. Karen, I don't have your variety of Christmas locations, but am very grateful to see them through your eyes and wonderful photographs. Just about every week, at my workplace, I do meet someone from South Africa, and am so glad to be able to appreciate a bit more of their homeland because I have learned a bit from your posts.

    So, many thanks to you! The surprise in this post was your time in Finland. Wow!

    I've also enjoyed reading the above comments. xo

  13. Beautiful images and memories of Christmas Karen. and all perfect for our BIO pst this month. I guess that it doesn't matter if the weather is freezing or beautifully hot just as long as we have our nearest and dearest with us. Being English, I just can't imagine a warm Christmas but, I guess it's the same if high temperatures and Christmas dinner on the beach is the norm. We have woken up to a light dusting of snow this morning and everywhere looks so Christmassy......I LOVE it !
    Enjoy your Christmas preparations Karen. XXXX

  14. Hello darling girl, just back from from being in Oranjezicht with that extraordinary mountain as a backdrop,and then the garden route, I have to say I was excited to be returning to the cold, the short days, the candlelit interiors and the promise of a sparkling Christmas. But, as ever, your blog was beautifully evocative and stirred my heart for the heat and the majestic beauty of an African Christmas. Lovely, thank you. xo

  15. Christmas does have to have snow and pine trees, it's what "Christmas" as image was created from by the Victorians. O Tannenbaum, and all that.
    Christmas in the southern hemisphere must have an "other" and different flavor and meaning which I can't really imagine ---
    I think it would be more dependent on one's own religious and/or spiritual sense than in the north, where it's built into the trappings.
    The first Christmas would have been, what? Jerusalem is cold in winter, the desert is hot. You take your pick of images, I suppose.
    But the places you've lived! From extreme to extreme. Finland's snowy scape, the Cape's gorgeousness of blue sea and sky.
    You have lived in beauty, here, there, and everywhere. And you share it so generously with all of us ---

  16. WOW! Choices...choices
    The warmth and water are too tempting for one who does not love the cold
    Exquisite pictures Karen


Related Posts with Thumbnails