If you are one of the lucky ones who draw warm inspiration from the season of giving, the time for God, family, magical castles, and lobotomizing food, then this article isn’t for you. The following selection of alternative Christmas escapes is for the silent hardcore sick of a hyper commercialized month of awful music, fighting families, brute hypocrisy and broken bank balances.
Lose the snow and hire a 1940s Cadillac in old Havana to rampage from beach to beach with a bottle of rum and a swarm of dancers in this tropical Communist utopia where Christmas is just another bourgeois weapon eradicated by Comrade Fidel. Revel in the colonial architecture and follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway and Che Guevara before settling down to a meal of red snapper and daiquiris with the local Habañeros.
Do: Find cheap accommodation in a Casa Particular (local home) and explore a real Cuban vibe; Check out Real Fábrica de Tabacos Partagás, for a sample smoke at Cuba’s oldest cigar making factory; Stop for ice cream at Coppelia, a massive space age style sugar imaginarium which serves over one thousand customers per day!
Another nominally Communist destination where you won’t have to worry about ear piercing Christmas choirs or rage inducing queues. Suzhou marries ancient Chinese Confucian culture with a rampant modernity, all within a bullet train of chaotic Shanghai. Pick up some chopsticks, point randomly at an unintelligible menu and try ox testicle stew while your relatives back home squabble over stuffed turkey.
Do: Kick off the day with a reflective cup of tea over a canal at Bi An Tea House; Stroll down to Shiquan Jie for relentless souvenir shopping and delicious street food; Pack yourself in a million man bus or hire an E-Bike to ride to Jinji Lake where you can spend the evening enchanted by sunsets and lanterns; Forget your job and stay a month longer for Chinese New Year.
Bogainville, Papua New Guinea
For the relentlessly adventurous, escape the festive nonsense by trekking to this unexplored autonomous island straddling the Pacific archipelago. Active volcanoes, lush rainforest, reported cannibalism and Heart of Darkness style military cults should be enough to cancel out any residual Sinatra echoes. Choose between hiring a local guide or reinventing yourself as a tattooed tribal warrior of no fixed Christmas card address.
Do: Kayak into unexplored caves; Set up the islands’ first Scuba Diving institute and never leave; Receive Malaria jabs before visiting; Test your physical prowess in battle with a saltwater crocodile; Surf, trek and generally explore nature in a bona fide tropical paradise.
Pyongyang, North Korea
Professing a belief in any God other than Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un is likely to get you a lengthy labour camp sentence at best, or a visit from Bill Clinton at worst. So rest assured it is highly unlikely that you will encounter a debased race to Christmas #1 or religious fanatics proselytising about the ‘end days’ to the beat of screaming kids. Instead take a dignified tour of war memorials with an ever smiling guide and appreciate a Draconian ban on ‘selfies’ which deep down you know makes sense.
Do: Secure a permanent place on Santas’ death list by tucking into fresh dog at Dangogi Gukjib; Take the 170 metre climb up Juche Tower for startling views of the city combined with a hefty dose of re-education; Visit the captured USS Pueblo and enjoy a hearty laugh at American inferiority (photography allowed); Check out the infamous demilitarised zone with South Korea for a round of golf.