Different Christmas trips: 4th Sunday in Advent is written by The editorial staff RejsRejsRejs
Christmas is also Christmas, even if it is kept away from the cold and other. In this series of Advent stories, we take you on a different Christmas journey.
4. Advent: Danish Christmas food in China
Danish Christmas food a la China is written by Jens Skovgaard Andersen.
While studying Chinese, I lived in the Chinese capital for half a year Beijing, when I studied at Peking University. It was in 2006, and it was in the fall and winter. That's why I also had to celebrate Christmas over there.
Let it be said right away: It became a bit of a challenge to celebrate Danish Christmas China.
I shared an apartment with two Danish fellow students, and in addition I was visited by two friends from home, so we would try to keep as Danish a Christmas as possible. The food is a big part of Christmas and of course we had to have pork, duck, red cabbage, potatoes and brown sauce. At least that was the plan.
Get in the Christmas spirit on duck and pig hunting
Our local restaurants had lots of dishes with pork and duck, but it would be a shame to say that they are reminiscent of Danish Christmas food. It's something completely different. We explored the local area and tasted a wide range of really good - and a few not so good - Chinese dishes, and we ended up going with something very Chinese: Peking duck. Not very Christmas, but a duck is probably a duck.
Pork was also on the menu and we had given up in advance to find roast pork. It is not easy to find an oven in traditional Beijing, as it just is not exactly the kind one uses to cook; here it is the wok that reigns in the kitchen. So it had to be pig in a different way. We were already fond of the familiar dish of pork in sour-sweet sauce and chili, so we had to have that.
In the Christmas spirit with red cabbage and rösti
You can get red cabbage if you can settle for the raw version. Our jam abilities were too limited for us to experiment with that kind of thing, so we had to settle.
The potatoes came from our West Chinese restaurant, where they had a really good mashed potato and some delicious rösti. It's not quite the same as browned potatoes - but good it was!
The sacred food color
Then we get to the sauce. The brown gravy. It was worse... It is simply not possible to raise food color in Beijing, so we had to improvise. A regular flour-based scone was added with equal amounts of soy, oyster sauce and red cabbage juice.
It produced a pale purple substance which at least didn't taste like brown gravy. In the glow of candles and with closed eyes and nostrils, we could almost convince ourselves that it was brown gravy. Almost.
All in all, we had a really fun Christmas and it is definitely a Christmas that we will not forget just yet. China is really exciting and full of Chinese delicacies - but Danish Christmas food is still a bit of a challenge. We did the best we could and finally got into the Christmas spirit under the foreign skies.
Read about Sascha's Christmas in New Zealand below the picture
Advent: (H) Christmas in New Zealand
(H)Christmas in New Zealand is written by Sascha Meineche.
Christmas lasts until a motorhome in New Zealand.
For many, Christmas is perhaps both holy and in a very specific way. The way in which the wrong color of the Christmas tablecloth can ruin the whole evening, or if 'Dejlig er jorden' is not sung at the Christmas service in church. And not to mention the sauce. If it's not right in the cupboard, then everything is ruined.
That's how I feel, too. In a way anyway, and yet far from it. Or yes, just with the sauce - it should preferably be right in the cupboard. But I really like to shake up the slightly old – pardon my French – but sometimes sick and stressful Christmas traditions.
I do that best by slipping away. Preferably as far away as possible.
The perfect Christmas with a good Christmas atmosphere
The perfect thing for me is Christmas at home, Christmas out, Christmas at home, and then Christmas out again. Then you get the best of everything almost at once, and you actually get to look forward to the next 'Home Christmas'.
I have now celebrated Christmas in quite a few places. From the neon-lit plastic Christmas tree mecca above them all in Malaysia to my parents' home, where of course there is always one big tradition, to a motorhome on New Zealand. Without both neon and plastic Christmas trees. And without snow for that matter.
Christmas far away from Denmark
And it's New Zealand we're going to now.
So far away from Denmark, as we can get, on a campsite without either glitter, glamor or neon-coloured plastic. We drove New Zealand thin in one of those – for those of you who have been there – smart, orange 'spaceship' cars.
Such a mini version of a motorhome; i.e. the cheap model where you just pitch a tent on the back. We lived there.
Pygmy Christmas tree and almost traditional Christmas dinner in the camper
On Christmas Eve we walked around in the sun, but still med Christmas spirit, and shopped like it was any other day. We are not really used to relaxed shopping at home either; there you reach the max in the local use to panic buy the last thing.
We went a bit crazy with some of the slightly more luxurious souvenir Christmas gifts that we wrapped in what we just had. Christmas presents were needed, and as a backpacker you don't carry that kind of stuff with you from home. We bought a tiny Christmas tree, shopped for some goodies, and then we set about making a luxury dinner. Of course, as much luxury as you can make in a camping kitchen.
It turned into chicken, potatoes, gravy and salad. Very close to luxury. At least when you make it on a campsite in a micro kitchen without equipment.
Then we went back to our car, sang a little carol while looking at our pygmy Christmas tree, unwrapped presents and saw Pyrus, and then of course we called our parents and wished them Merry Christmas, about 12 hours before, they themselves had considered putting duck in the oven.
Christmas on wheels in New Zealand is, after all, something different from Christmas here at home.
Advent: Christmas on the Spanish terrace
Christmas in Spain – with surprises
Christmas Eve on the terrace in 20 degree heat? Yes, why not?
A few years ago, my mother, sister and I flew over Gran Canaria i Spain. We all shared the same opinion that this was a more liberating way to celebrate Christmas than having to embark on the big Christmas race at home.
We had lost a family member the year before, so a different and less stressful Christmas was clearly what was needed in the family.
No stress from mother in the kitchen, no imposed Christmas traditions, just us, for Christmas and Christmas spirit in the heat.
A few festive Christmas experiences
On the way out one evening we came past a small cozy area with restaurants, small shops and bars. We sat down at a restaurant where it quietly dawned on us that the evening's entertainment was one Drag Show.
It was an incredibly entertaining and different evening and I have good picture of my sister and I along with a lot Dragon Queens.
I think my mother also changed her slightly conservative attitude in this area!
The next day we decided to go for a long walk on the beach.
We soon found out that our little stroll had ended at the nudist beach, so it was also festive, just in a slightly different way...
Christmas Eve without traditions
We celebrated Christmas Eve with a quiet dinner at the hotel, as far away from all the Danish Christmas traditions as possible. Exactly as we had wanted.
The only small Christmas spirit tradition we took with us to the south was a small Christmas present for each. My sister got something as simple as a sweater – a sweater she even managed to lose before we flew back to Denmark.
The beauty of this trip was that we agreed to travel more together. Just us three ladies.
We have since visited boats Budapest og Dubrovnik, and our next considerations are on either Tallin or Krakow. As there is great variation in the age group, it is important to us that it is not too far away.
Happy 2nd Sunday in Advent, no matter where in the world you hold it.
Read about John's Christmas in Vietnam below the picture
1. Advent: Christmas on a prison lake
I love Christmas, but I must admit I love warmth at least as much. That's why my boyfriend and I decided last year to spend Christmas abroad - and preferably a place that could be combined with beach and experiences.
We had several places up to turn; at least 25 degrees and sun was a must though. We stumbled upon Con Dao, which is a relatively pristine archipelago in the south Vietnam . The main island Con Son is an old prison island and therefore offers both good weather, exciting history and unspoilt beaches. We packed the Santa hats a few days before Christmas and left.
The road to Christmas spirit and palm trees
From Ho Chi Minh City to Con Son it took 1 hour by plane. From airport to hotel we drove only 15 minutes before arriving at something reminiscent of paradise.
Six Senses is one of the nicest hotels and places I have ever seen. With private pool and views of the beach from the room it could hardly be better. Despite the 30 degrees and palm trees, it was easy to get in the Christmas spirit as the whole hotel was decorated for Christmas.
From prison island to holiday paradise with a Christmas atmosphere
Con Dao, however, has more to offer than beautiful scenery and white beaches. The island is known for its bloody past and served as a prison until 1975.
When visiting the prison, one must be prepared for an exciting but gruesome experience. It's not hard to imagine how horrible the prison has been. As the picture shows, figures have been erected depicting the prisoners' lives as they were.
After the jail visit, we took our rented scooter and drove to the Van Son Pagoda. An impressive temple on a hilltop with beautiful views, wild monkeys and local Vietnamese who come here to pray.
Then the Christmas bottles were lit.
Finally, it was December 24th. We were prepared for the menu to be on Vietnamese spring rolls instead of roast pork. But to our great surprise, the hotel had made a Christmas buffet for all the guests, which offered both brown sauce, potatoes and duck. The atmosphere was good, the Christmas tree lit, it smelled of Christmas atmosphere and despite unfamiliar surroundings, we still felt at home for Christmas.
Merry Christmas from the editors