All Aboard for the Holidays

5 December 2011 By Lucie Ferrer

The holiday season is a notoriously tough time to be away from home, whether traveling for pleasure or work, but with a little effort and imagination, it’s possible to make the most of cultural diversity on board by sharing in each others’ festive traditions.

Whilst the holiday period means different things to different people, all share the sentiment of being grateful for the good things and loved ones in our lives, stuffing a large bird — then our faces with said bird — and washing the whole feast down with plenty of festive spirit and hospitality.

Having an activity such as a go-karting session that everyone can enjoy for the crew “Holiday Party” can be a lot of fun; as is organizing a “Secret Santa” during which crewmembers randomly draw each other’s names then have to purchase that person a gift. During the gift opening, crew should try to guess who bought them their gift. It’s a good idea to put a price cap on the gifts, this way, one crewmember doesn’t wind up with a six pack and someone else is given an iPad, or other high-ticket, awesome item from an especially generous crewmate. This game is a great way to bring everyone together and have a laugh.

Crew from the southern hemisphere will be used to celebrating the holidays in hot weather with trips to the beach, barbeques and water sports on the agenda. If weather and work schedules allow, why not follow suit? In Europe and North America, the focus is more on keeping warm and well-fed, playing indoor games and watching TV show specials, and, hey, that’s fun, too.

Décor is a must, and again, why not have something from all of the various cultures represented on board? European and North Americans will be familiar with the be-tinseled pine Christmas tree, whilst crew from New Zealand will be more used to a Pohutukawa tree taking center stage for Christmas. (Though this may be difficult to get hold of since they only grow in certain coastal parts of New Zealand!) Phillippinos decorate their homes with star shaped paper lantern, amongst other things, that they often make themselves in the run-up to their two weeks of parties and feasts. Brits will be used to pulling Christmas crackers at the table, telling the awful jokes found inside while donning a dodgy paper hat (also enclosed) for the duration of their big meal. A little well placed mistletoe can encourage holiday romance. Although it’s best to avoid doing anything, or anyone, that you might regret in the cold light of day on January 1!

New Years’ Eve is celebrated in a host of ways. British crew will most likely join arms and sing the traditional Scottish song “Auld Lang’s Syne” at midnight. Another Scottish Hogmanay tradition is “First footing,” when you pay a visit to your neighbors bearing gifts with a view to being the first to cross their threshold. Why not organize a “First Foot Yacht Hop” with any other local crew who able to take part? It is considered especially lucky if a tall, dark and handsome man is the first to enter your property after the stroke of midnight. Personally speaking, I consider a handsome gent bearing gifts a good omen at any time of year.

In Spain, 12 grapes are eaten at midnight to represent 12 months of good luck. The Dutch burn their Christmas trees to ward off evil spirits for the new year and everyone enjoys some fireworks — the Chinese who both invented them, and started the tradition of setting them off to celebrate their New Year. In all cultures, New Year’s Eve is a time for celebration and optimism for the coming months.

Spending holidays in a working environment might not be everyone’s ideal, but at the end of the day, it’s what we make of it. So, eat, drink (if possible) and be merry.