Already had enough of Christmas before the big day has even begun? Plan ahead so next year you can escape it, writes Eli Orzessek.
If the thought of Christmas cheer ignites more of a "bah humbag" feeling than "tidings of great joy", you might want to avoid the holiday altogether. Luckily, there are a few destinations where Christmas isn't even a blip on the radar — read on and plan your escape with these suggestions.
Take a Christmas Day flight
Compared to the days surrounding it, Christmas Day is a relatively quiet day for air travel — because everyone's usually reached their destination already. So what better way to avoid Christmas altogether than to jump on a longhaul flight on the day itself? You might receive a perfunctory Christmas greeting or two, but ignore it, put on those headphones and settle in for a good run of in-flight movies. With Emirates or Qatar Airways, you could board one of the world's longest flights and have a little stopover in Dubai or Doha (also great places to avoid Christmas in), before heading on to Europe just in time for the post-holiday sales.
With a primarily Muslim population, Christmas isn't really a big deal in Morocco. You might find a Christmas tree or two on display in malls in the big cities, but outside of them, you could easily forget it's December 25 at all. Book yourself into a riad — a traditional Morrocan house with an interior garden — for the most authentic experience and explore the souk marketplaces for some exotic bargains. It certainly beats pulling Christmas crackers. However, as this is quite a popular destination at this time of year for travellers from colder European climates, you may want to book in advance.
A communist country is generally a good destination for avoiding Christmas, but these days this isn't always the case. While there once was a Christmas ban in Cuba, late leader Fidel Castro relented on it back in 1998. In China, economic reforms have inspired more enthusiasm for the commercial aspects of Christmas, particularly in the larger cities like Beijing and Shanghai. And in Vietnam, French colonialism left behind a fair few festive hangovers. However, in nearby Laos, a combination of communism and a large Buddhist population have kept Santa and friends at bay. Another bonus is that Laos is a very cheap country to visit and while it's becoming more popular as a tourism destination, it's still off the radar of most travellers.
While big cities like Tokyo and Osaka have become overrun with robotic Santas, you won't find many of the things traditionally associated with Christmas in Japan — but there are a few unique customs you can enjoy. Strawberry shortcake is a popular treat at this time of the year, as is, wait for it, KFC. Thanks to a savvy marketing campaign in the 70s, a KFC meal has become traditional at Christmas, with customers booking weeks in advance to secure their meal. But if you're keen to avoid Christmas altogether, you could always immerse yourself in traditional Japanese culture in Kyoto, or retreat to a mountain resort in the north to ski, hike and soak in hot springs.
Hole up in a DOC hut or camping ground
Despite being a small country, New Zealand has plenty of remote spots where you escape the maddening hordes of Christmas and get some quality alone time. And as a bonus, they're fairly unlikely to be booked out on December 25. If you're in Auckland and are unable to travel far, the Tiritiri Matangi bunkhouse — usually booked out well in advance — is currently available over the Christmas period. Enjoy your Christmas break with the birds instead of those family members you'd rather avoid!
In the Buddhist nation of Mongolia, December 25 isn't even a blip on the radar — kids go to school, adults go to work and the shops are open. Despite the landscapes looking like something out of a Christmas card fantasy of a winter wonderland — complete with reindeer — the holiday is only really celebrated by the expat community here. Rather than obtaining a Christmas tree in December, locals are on the hunt for a New Year's tree — celebrated widely in the country as a family holiday — and these are often decorated with money to attract wealth and prosperity for the next generation.