Cork, Ireland on a road trip with a girlfriend. We stayed in a delicious guest house. The hostess greeted us on Christmas Eve with shortbread and tea by the open fire. On Christmas morning she made us a five course breakfast, which included porridge with Baileys in place of milk.
New York, USA, when my parents flew in from Sydney and I flew in from London. We saw the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Recital, watched ice skating in Central Park and had a slap up meal in the Rockefeller Centre on Christmas Eve.
And Whistler, Canada (last year). Living there with Nick and a large group of similarly orphaned friends. We moved all the furniture out of our one bedroom apartment and three large dining tables in to share a feast of turkey, ham, chickens, vegetables for days and never ending supply of wine with our 17 Canadian nearest and dearest.
All of these Christmases-away-from-home have a common theme, each and everyone of them have been in some of the most festive cities in the world. Ireland will never be outdone for Christmas lights, New York is, well, New York and Whistler twinkled with fresh fallen snow and we were surrounded by a family (of sorts). This year it will just be Nick and I...in Tibet.
Rather than just let the day pass us by, we've had a good hard think about which elements make up Christmas Day and have done our best to recreate them with what we have to hand. Here are Follow Me East's five steps to making Christmas happen, even in the least festive of places.
It's soppy, but it's essential. We, of course, are cheating, we have each other. Last year we embraced a motley crew of close friends, the odd family member and ring-ins, to make for a raucous day. In previous years I have prearranged to meet friends and family in various parts of the world.
We can all agree that much of Christmas is centered on food. Leaving from Nepal to head into Tibet we clearly weren't spoilt for choice, still we took ourselves to the local supermarket to see what we could find to supplement our Christmas dinner of dumplings and thakali. We came up with a bottle of red wine and a block of that great international stand by, Toblerone. The mince pies, chorizo stuffed turkey and pudding will have to wait till next year.
I have a guilty confession to make. I love the present part of Christmas. I love thinking of what to buy as gifts, wrapping them and having them under the tree. And, I am not impartial to opening the odd pressie or two. We eagerly embraced the chance to break our budget and buy some of the great knick knacks that fill the shops of Thamel. Whether it is a 400 rupee gag gift or something a bit more indulgent, wrapping it is important. Use the local newspaper if you have to, but make sure you have a wrapped present to open on Christmas morning.
Most cities with any sort of tourist population will have a small stab at Christmas decorating, even if it is just in the tourist haunts. You might have to get a bit creative to turn your dorm or guesthouse room into a Christmas wonderland, but go with what you've got - coloured paper, Buddhist prayer flags, even just a token snow man (if it's cold enough).
No doubt about it when the carols start late November and are played non-stop in every retail space until the end of December you never want to hear about another White Christmas again. It is a clear advantage to spending Christmas in a non-festive country. However, Christmas carols in moderation do have an important role to play in Christmas traditions. The Internet has made it easy for us to download some of our more nostalgic tunes to help set the mood on Christmas Day.
Without the usual external triggers to make merry - Christmas parties and wreaths hanging everywhere - we have had to import an injection of Christmas cheer. There are a multitude of Christmas movies out there that will put even the grinchiest in the festive mood. Again, the miracle of the Internet means we can download our favourites (Love Actually and Die Hard) to enjoy after a day trekking through snowy Tibet.
Finally, to repeat my mother's words of wisdom "this is one Christmas out of many more to come". I love Christmas traditions, but Christmas in Tibet is going to stand out as unforgettably unique.
Wherever you are spending it, we hope you have a good one.