I’m Dreaming of a White (Sand) Christmas
It was Christmas Eve and it was snowing! This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. Growing up in Houston, Texas, we rarely saw snow, and for it to happen on Christmas Eve had me jumping for joy. As a kid, I always wanted to experience a white Christmas. Usually, in Texas, we would be outside playing in the sunshine with our new toys the next day, sometimes not even needing a sweater.
As I got a bit older, I noticed I actually hate the cold. I started to travel and I realized there’s an entire hemisphere that celebrates our “winter” holidays in the middle of their summer! My dreams of a white Christmas turned into dreams of a white sand Christmas. Now I’m like a bird, flying south for the winter, looking for even sunnier weather and skipping out of the cold altogether!
Tropical Christmas in Koh Phangan
The first Christmas I spent on the beach was on the Thai island of Koh Phangan. While not technically summer there, the weather was hot and humid just how I like it. I had just moved there to work as a scuba instructor and was a bit bummed to be thousands of miles away from my family during the holidays. Since Thailand is a mainly Buddhist country, I figured I probably wouldn’t be celebrating this year.
However, as most backpackers and travelers know, no matter where you are in the world, you can find family! The first Christmas surprise I had was my dear friend Alex showing up on the island. We had traveled together for a few months before and he came to spend Christmas in Koh Phangan with me.
My boss and coworkers at the dive shop also became an instant family. His wife prepared a Christmas feast for all of us. Slightly different than the usual Christmas trimmings, we slurped down some spicy, homemade Thai curry in the scorching heat.
After a huge lunch, I squeezed myself into my bikini, hopped on my moped, headed to my favorite beach, Mae Haad, and lounged in the sand the whole afternoon. That right here is why I was chasing the warm weather! I would take sunbathing on Christmas over bundling up any day.
We finished off the day with a not-so-average Christmas party. The island is known for its Full Moon parties on Haad Rin, which started back in 1985 and has continued to grow since then. They held a Christmas Half-Moon party where we danced and partied into the next morning with electronic music, buckets of booze, and fire dancers at one of the biggest and baddest parties in the world.
Christmas in the Desert in San Pedro de Atacama
From Christmas on the beach to Christmas in the desert! I spent one of the most unique Christmas’ of my life in Chile in the San Pedro de Atacama desert. I had been traveling South America with my best friend Mel. We had just crossed the border from Peru into Chile and ended up in the desert for Christmas. As an Aussie, Mel was used to a warm sunny holiday, but I was absolutely giddy.
Once again, we had a new family made up of a bunch of other travelers who found themselves far away from their loved ones on Christmas. There were people from the UK, Argentina, Italy, India, and even Estonia! We were a collection of travelers from all over the world who came together at the hostel to have an intimate Christmas dinner.
I seemed to have found my way back to a destination with raging parties for Christmas! After dinner, we headed by foot away from the town and into the darkness of the desert. It seemed as if we were walking forever, with nothing but the stars lighting our way as we trudged over the endless sand dunes.
Finally, we saw a faint light, where a local DJ was setting up. Within minutes, there were make-shift bars and snack shacks set up all around us. We partied in the middle of the desert underneath a blanket of bright, twinkling stars, in what was likely the most epic party location I have ever been to.
Countries Where You Can Celebrate Christmas in the Sand
Whether you’re looking for a country in the Southern Hemisphere with scorching hot beach weather in December or a tropical country that has the perfect beach weather year-round, there are tons of amazing places to choose from for your white sand Christmas!
Australia – Aussies are used to the idea of having Christmas in the summer. The holiday falls right as kids get out for summer vacation, so the days are long and hot. One popular Christmas tradition there is to head to the beach of course! They do many of the same Christmas traditions as the Northern hemisphere, like Christmas carols, presents, and church service. They also feast on prawns, hold street parties, play cricket, or go camping.
Brazil – Despite the fact that Brazil is in the middle of its summer, Christmas here looks a lot like Christmas in the US and Europe. They decorate with Christmas trees and lights, welcome Santa (Papai Noel), and prepare a big feast on Christmas Eve. Of course, the weather is hot and humid, so spending the day on the beach would be brilliant as well.
Indonesia – It’s not summer in Indonesia in December, it’s rainy season. But temperatures range from the upper 80s to the upper 90s, so it feels like summer for most of us! The rain usually only lasts a few hours, and so if you find yourself in Indonesia for Christmas you most definitely can enjoy the day on the beach. About 10 percent of the country is Christian plus there is a huge ex-pat population in certain places like Bali, so you’ll be able to find a Christmas service or feast if that’s what you’re looking for.
South Africa- Another southern hemisphere country celebrating Christmas in the heat of the summer! Locals love to spend the holidays outdoors, visiting parks and enjoying the wildflower blooms. In South Africa, you can spend the sunny days on the beach or doing plenty of other outdoor activities while still experiencing your traditional Christmas decorations and traditions.
There are plenty of other countries where you can escape the cold weather of the north in December and soak up the sun. Depending on what’s important to you, you can choose a country that has similar traditions as your own or forget the holidays entirely. For me, as long as I can feel the sun on my skin instead of the harsh cold, I am a happy camper.
Kerri Driver got bit hard by the travel bug after studying abroad in Spain and then moving back there to teach English after college. She loves to travel slow and has spent three of the last six years inching her way through Europe, South East Asia, and South America.
She has funded her travels as an English teacher, SCUBA instructor, bartender, and with various other gigs. Now, she’s working as a freelance writer and beginning her journey as a digital nomad. Her passions include spending time with her dog, a boxer named Rage, iPhone photography, learning new languages, and doing anything she can to help street animals around the world.
You can follow her travels on Instagram @flightybehavior