1. Christmas 1991, Israel
I was a volunteer on Kibbutz Alonim in Northern Israel. On Christmas Eve a bunch of us went to nearby Nazareth for a procession including what seemed to be a giant turkey, but on reflection, may have been a dove of peace. My Jewish boyfriend came with us to Mass
the Basilica but was disappointed there was no buffet. 'I thought you got bread and wine!' He complained.
On Christmas Day, Christian volunteers got the day off and volunteer leader Bella made us turkey with roasties and a big salad (it's against the constitution of Israel to have any meal without salad). As you can see, we had to dance sitting down as there wasn't much space in the volunteer house. It snowed that year (not at Christmas) so we 'borrowed' dining room trays and went sledging on them at Israel's unlikely ski resort on Mount Hermon.
2. Christmas 1992, Goa
This was only a few weeks into my first (ill-fated) attempt at a circumnavigation of the world. Goa is a largely Christian community south of Mumbai but there was nothing Christmassy about it until Christmas Eve when every householder put a paper star around their porch light. We ate prawn curry in a cafe on the beach and danced at a beach bar until about midnight - not exactly immersing myself in traditional culture - which seemed to include every local Indian family sitting silently at tables in their best clothes in the main square in silence at midnight.
3. Christmas 2008, Sydney
Four years ago I was three months into my (this time successful) circumnavigation of the world. We'd spent a few weeks campervanning in Western Australia so it was nice to be based in one place for ten days - probably the only place we'd booked before we left home. The motel owners let us into the kitchen, set up table and chairs in the street outside and invited any waifs and strays (local and visiting - I'm the one stood there with the bubbly and the santa hat, naturally) to a slap up 'bring and share' seasonal feast! We made the biggest trifle I've ever seen - I wonder if they've finished it yet?