It is the Christmas season again and just like every year, Bali is CROWDED. Hotels are full to capacity, traffic is congested (even more so than usual) yet somehow it just doesn’t quite feel like Christmas.
For North Americans traveling to Bali for Christmas this is due to the extreme heat and unsurprising lack of snow. Australians and Europeans will notice the lack of Christmas-themed decorations which are present, but not in the abundance they are used to in their home countries.
For the average tourist in Bali for Christmas though, these things are not such a big deal. They chose to spend their Christmas away from home on a tropical island and more than likely they have their family in tow. For a visitor in Bali for Christmas, Bali IS their celebration for the holidays.
So how do expats in Bali celebrate Christmas?
For an expat in Bali, Christmas can mean many different things. Unlike short-term visitors who spend only a few weeks in Bali around the holidays, expats have their own circle of longer-term residents, all with their own ways of spending the day on the 25th.
While for most expats, Christmas in Bali will never be the same as the Christmases they remember as kids growing up in their home countries, Christmas in Bali can be a great time as well. The Christmas celebrations for expats usually fall into one of three categories and we are going to take a look at them today.
The “Christmas in the tropics” expat
This expat doesn’t care that it’s hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement outside, it’s Christmas and they are going to celebrate as such. Usually this type of expat will get a big group of friends together and plan something special that reminds them of the type of Christmas celebrations they used to know.
They might head to Carrefour or Bali Deli and stock up on various items and ingredients that are hard to find in Bali, in an attempt to recreate their favorite Christmas dishes. There may or may not be a Christmas tree in their home (almost always artificial) and a gift exchange, even a small one is obligatory at their Christmas gathering.
Having a Christmas like this in Bali can be a lot of fun, especially if it is only their first or second Christmas away from home and they have a good group of friends to spend the day with. The food might not taste as authentic as their grandmother’s cooking and the gifts might even be a little strange in nature but the feeling of Christmas with people’s company you enjoy is still there.
The “any reason to celebrate something in Bali” expat
For this type of expat, it doesn’t really matter what day it is, the important thing is they don’t have any responsibilities that day besides drinking Bintang and being merry. Since almost all foreign workers (from English teachers to hotel managers) get Christmas Day off in Bali, there is always going to be someone around to celebrate with.
The festivities can start quite early although if you didn’t know any better, you might not know that these people were celebrating Christmas at all. After a day of bar-crawling or sunset beers on the beach, this type of expat will usually succumb to the allure of Christmas Day and find themselves having dinner with friends in a restaurant that reminds them of home-cooked food.
While some might argue that this is no way to spend Christmas Day, others might say it more closely resembles their Christmas at home as well (maybe minus the beach and the Bintang). It’s usually good to get this expat in a taxi after dinner though, he’s had a long day this Christmas.
The “Bah Humbug” expat
This type of expat might try to act is if they don’t even know it is Christmas at all. Whether because they may have converted to Hindu after eloping with a Balinese or because Christmas never meant much to them in the past, Christmas Day in Bali is just another day to them.
This type of expat might not do anything differently than they do any other day in Bali although you could get them confused with the “any reason to celebrate something in Bali” expat if that just happens to be their daily routine anyways.
Or, since it is a national holiday in Indonesia but they feel they have nothing to celebrate, they might use the day to get out of town and go exploring. A day trip or longer to other parts of Bali is a great way to spend Christmas Day if you aren’t actually celebrating Christmas.
Which type of expat are you?
Do you fall under any of these 3 categories? Some expats might even feel like I was talking about them in particular. Don’t be offended though, it’s just a little light-hearted humor for the holidays and not directed at or based off of anyone in particular.
The thing I have always noticed about Christmas in Bali, is that while some of the pieces may be missing, the core is still there. For me, it has always been about spending the day in the company of good people and having a good time. Doesn’t sound too different than Christmas at home, does it?
Happy Holidays everyone!