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Christmas in Antarctica
Not very - is the simple answer. Summer on scientific bases (and remember, the great majority of people in Antarctica are on scientific bases) is a time of great activity and comes right in the middle of the season of work. The majority of personnel on scientific bases are there for the summer only and so they know they're going to Antarctica to work.
In addition to this everyone is away from their family and loved ones and with a group of people who vary from maybe a few close friends if they're lucky to casual acquaintances to those they wouldn't choose to spend any time with at all.
There is also none of the build-up to Christmas that exists in much of the world. No advertising on TV (no TV), no articles in newspapers and magazines (no newspapers and magazines), no street decorations (no streets), no shopping (no shops) and none of the elaborate planning and shared family traditions.
Some enjoy the fact that there isn't any of the last-minute shopping, family obligations or other stress inducing aspects of the season!
There certainly is! Christmas day is usually a non-working day for most people, though many will also be doing their jobs for part of the day at least.
Details depend on the nationality of the base and on the prevailing base culture, but pretty much all Antarctic bases will have a slap-up Christmas meal and a party of some type. Volunteers often help the base cook/s prepare the special meal.
Presents tend not to be exchanged between base members as there's not really anywhere to buy them from! Shopping as recreation is definitely not on the list of Antarctic things to do.
The party in the evening tends to be the main event. Dinner will be as traditional as possible in the circumstances, though fresh vegetables and meat are not easy to come by and so may be supplemented with dried, tinned or frozen varieties.
Fancy dress is always a great Antarctic favourite (costumes often taking much of the day to make*), usually with some theme or other. If there is anyone on base who can sing or play an instrument (even if pretty awfully) then they will stand up and do their bit. Many base members will have presents from home that may well have arrived months earlier and are saved until Christmas to be opened.
Some people may phone home via a satellite link if this is possible, and most send emails and pictures or update their blogs (communication has been revolutionized in Antarctica more so than any where else probably by the advent of the internet).
Well apart from place, company and circumstances - Christmas Day comes just a few days after not the shortest day as in the northern hemisphere - but the longest day in the southern hemisphere.
In many places in Antarctica, Christmas Day is celebrated in 24 hour daylight. Even the furthest north Antarctic places have only about an hour or so of dusk between sun down and sun up.
A White Christmas is a pretty good bet! - but somehow doesn't feel so special.
Christmas Day afternoon strolls however are very special as depending on where you are, the wildlife could be spectacular and the scenery most certainly will be.
The day after Christmas day is usually just another ordinary working day with just a bit of respite with New Year.
1/One year, because we knew what Christmas would be like and not a proper celebration, we decided to have it in October - still officially in the winter as no ships had yet arrived and wouldn't for over a month. It was much more enjoyable than the "real" one as we spent the time to do it all properly :o)
2/ The real celebration in Antarctica is Mid Winter ending with Mid Winters Day on June the 21st.
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