Sunday 20 October 2019

'Maybe I'll give a delivery dinner a try' - three young Irish people on how they're spending Christmas abroad

Darragh McGowan is on a two-year IEC visa in Vancouver.
Darragh McGowan is on a two-year IEC visa in Vancouver.
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

While many people are at home tucking into their Christmas dinner with family, others will find themselves having an unconventional Christmas this year.

We spoke to three young Irish workers living all over the world to find out how they’ll be spending their Christmas abroad, away from the Irish traditions they grew up with.

Saoirse McCloskey (23) from Co Kildare, living in Sydney, Australia: 'I’m heartbroken not to be home'

"I came here on a one-year working holiday visa and arrived in September. The most obvious difference between Christmas in Sydney and Ireland is the weather – it’s supposed to be 30 degrees here on Christmas day. Most people here tend to have a big family BBQ, enjoy a few drinks outside and relax for the day. 

"The lead-up to Christmas definitely seems more relaxed over here, as opposed to the rush everyone experiences in the weeks leading up to the event at home.

"This year me and a small group of fellow Irish and English friends plan on meeting up to have a pancake breakfast with a few mimosas out on the balcony, then we’ll probably hit the beach for the day and soak up the atmosphere. It’ll be nice to be with others who are in the same boat away from their families.

Saoirse McCloskey (23) is working in finance in Sydney.

"To be honest, I’m heartbroken not to be at home as I’m extremely close to my family. I’m trying not to let myself think about it or dwell on it.

"I’ve promised myself this will be my only Christmas away from home, and it’ll be such an experience to have it here. For me, Christmas revolves around spending time with my family, so they are what I’ll miss the most. 

"Myself and my Dad have a tradition where we go to M&S super early every year on Christmas eve to buy loads of treats – chocolate, crisps, cheese, ice-cream, the whole lot. Then we come home, and my mam will have already started preparing Christmas nibbles – particularly her stuffing balls.

Saoirse McCloskey (23) is working in finance in Sydney.

"I’ll really miss that. I’ll also miss sitting in front of the fire in my new Christmas pyjamas watching The Royale Family. I won’t miss going to mass on Christmas Eve though– sorry Mam!

"But nothing beats walking down Grafton Street on a cold December night and seeing the lights and the Brown Thomas windows. There really is nothing like the atmosphere in Dublin around Christmas time, it’s magical."

Martha Murphy Gilligan (22) from Co Dublin, living in Vietnam: 'I’ve seen advertisements for delivery Christmas dinners here'

"I’m living in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, teaching English in a kindergarten school. It’s not a hugely-celebrated holiday here.

"Most Vietnamese people have Tet as their big holiday, which is Vietnamese New Year in February. So Christmas week is a normal week here, everyone is in work.

"It is still quite a commercial holiday though and shops are filled with Christmas items. It will be my first Christmas away from home so I won’t have the luxury of a family cooked dinner. I might actually be in work, but I’m trying to get out of it. 

Martha (22) is teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City.

"If so, I’m hoping to get out of the city for a night with a few friends and maybe attempt our own Christmas dinner. I have actually seen advertisements for delivery Christmas dinners here so I might have to give it a try! 

"I just left Ireland a few weeks ago so it really wasn’t an option to return home for Christmas this year. But I will miss being home and being with my family. I’ll definitely miss the Christmas dinner the most, followed by movies and Baileys of course.

Martha (22) is teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City.

"I’ll also miss Christmas pudding, one of the things that makes an Irish Christmas so special. I don’t think it’s necessarily even an Irish thing, but I haven’t seen anything similar here. At home we light it on the pan with whiskey, so I'll be missing out on that too."

Darragh McGowan (24) from Dublin, living in Vancouver, Canada:

"I'm currently living in Vancouver, Canada, on a two year IEC Visa and this will be my first Christmas abroad and not spent with family. Christmas is celebrated similarly here as it is back home in Dublin, however, due to the greatly diverse ethnicities of metropolitan Vancouver, Christmas is not celebrated by everyone here as it would be in virtually every Irish home.

"This year I will be celebrating Christmas with a few other Irish friends who are also on the IEC Visa. It won't be radically different to the holidays at home. as there will still be turkey, ham and roast vegetables, followed by the usual TV binge watching of Indiana Jones and or Harry Potter. The only true difference will be the lack of family."

Darragh McGowan is on a two-year IEC visa in Vancouver.

"I initially had every intention of making the trek home for Christmas, however, I soon was reminded of how every airline jacks up their prices for the month of December. By simply waiting until late January to visit home, I could save as much as $500 on travel costs.

"I will miss home this Christmas, that is something I know for certain, but I also feel that one Christmas away won't kill me, if anything it will relieve some stress on my wallet. 

Darragh McGowan is on a two-year IEC visa in Vancouver.

"As a Dub, I always get a hit of excitement each year when the Christmas lights go up in the city centre. Whether I was 5 years old or 23, the moment RTÉ showed the Nollag Shona Duit lit up on Grafton street, I always knew it was a special time of year.

"Of course, Vancouver has lights all over too at this time, but it isn't quite the same excitement as in my native city. One thing Vancouver certainly does right to get people in the Christmas mood is the ice skating rink in Robson square, situated beside the main Christmas tree in the city centre, skating is free if you have your own skates. At the end of the day though, family is what makes Irish Christmas - extra special."

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