Snowflakes, snow angels, snowmen — when December rolls around, those who live in the Northern Hemisphere can usually expect to see snow flurrying around. But it’s a different story in the Southern Hemisphere where residents trade the coats and wind chills for some tank tops and sunshine. If you’re looking to escape from the ice-cold temperatures, get away to some of these hot spot destinations.
Known as the Land Down Under, Australia has some of the hottest temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere, which means the holidays take place in the middle of its summer vacation. Because of that, the pools and beaches are going to be your best friend during Australia’s holiday season, with some of the most popular pastimes including surfing, sailing, snorkeling and swimming. Many families will also pick up their cricket bats and play on grounds in the mainland, and when they’re done playing, they’ll meet at the barbie for some of Australia’s most cherished holiday barbecue delicacies. Many families decorate their houses and porches with a red shrub called Christmas Bush ahead of Dec. 25, then on Christmas Eve, millions of Aussies will step outside, light candles and sing carols together at night as part of Vision Australia’s Carols By Candlelight concert. After all, nothing says Christmas in Australia like some caroling.
Instead of pine, spruce and fir trees, New Zealand has a different type of Christmas tree that blooms every summer. The Pōhutukawa is a lush evergreen tree that blooms a cluster of bright red flowers, kind of like floral ornaments. New Zealanders can find this tree anywhere on the 103,000-square-foot island, and the seasonal summer festivities don’t stop there. Locals love to celebrate the holidays through outdoor activities like hiking on its steep trails, exploring coves along the coastline or even camping in one of its national parks. Christmas lunches are usually filled with lamb, prawns and oysters, and dessert includes plum pudding, fruit mince pies or pavlova cake, which is commonly topped with strawberries, blueberries or kiwis. And in the days leading up to Christmas morning, many towns host a parade with Santa at the helm (usually wearing sandals and a rugby shirt). Whatever you do for the holidays, New Zealand will have you saying “Meri Kirihimete.”
While fir trees aren’t native to South Africa, many children will nevertheless decorate their own trees imported from Europe in December. And like other countries, South Africa will put Christmas presents under the tree and hang their stockings for Sinterklaas to fill on Christmas Eve. The biggest differences in its holiday traditions lie in its decorations, which emphasize extravagant light displays, tinsel and fake snow. When locals aren’t putting up ornaments or going Christmas shopping, they’re hiking through national parks, interacting with exotic wildlife and even diving into plentiful waterfalls. And when it’s time for Christmas dinner, South Africans lay it all out there with duck, suckling pig, yellow rice, raisins, mince pies and Malva pudding made from apricot jam. After mealtime is over, families will usually pull out their Christmas cracker poppers and snap them open at the table. And like any other Christmas present, the best part comes from not knowing what’s inside.
The holidays are always a fiesta in South America, and few places are as festive as Brazil is in December. When Brazilians aren’t hanging up ornaments, putting up decorations or chilling on the beach, Brazil goes all-out for a Christmas spread that’s unmatched in its appeal. Its turkey is marinated in cachaca sugar cane liquor or champagne and stuffed with cassava flour and fruit before being oven-roasted, while its niños envueltos take layers of boiled cabbage and stuff it with beef. The cola de mono is similar to a chilled eggnog mixed with coffee, rum and spices, and the natilla is its signature creamy Christmas treat made with panela sugar cane and fried bunuelo fritters. And when Santa’s sleigh flies over the country, fireworks will often be set off to light the way for Santa’s reindeer — not that Rudolph doesn’t already have them covered.