It’s Not Always Cold at Christmas: ‘Tropical’ Traditions You Need to See


You don’t have to have a white Christmas to get into the Christmas spirit. Here are a few examples of Christmas gold, without the cold!


I’ve spent every Christmas of my life in Arizona. When I mention this to someone who grew up with White Christmas traditions, they regularly take a pity on me as though I somehow haven’t experienced all the joys of this December holiday.

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However, Christmas is about far more than just snow on pine trees. It’s a time to celebrate Christ’s birth, be surrounded by family and give generously. Take a look at these heartwarming traditions from around (sunnier parts) of the world:

Arizona’s Tumbleweed Christmas Tree


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Let’s start first with my hometown of Chandler, AZ. Every year the downtown district erects a massive 35-foot-tall Christmas tree assembled out of tumbleweeds. Displayed annually since the 1950s, the tree features 1000 tumbleweeds and over 65 pounds of glitter. Pyromaniacs used to target the attraction as an ideal bonfire location. So today, the beloved tree is also assembled with a hearty amount of flame-resistant treatment.

Rio de Janeiro’s Floating Christmas Tree

There are many places that erect floating Christmas trees, but none are as impressive as this Brazilian marvel. Officially earning itself the title as “largest of its kind” by the Guinness Book of World Records, this floating display can be seen every holiday season in Rio de Janeiro. The tree is decorated with over 3 million lights, drawing massive crowds of celebrators on the night of its first illumination. They welcome the season with a dazzling fireworks display, aweing at the floating tree, which stands an impressive 28-stories tall.

South Africa’s Day of Goodwill


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In countries with a strong British influence, it’s common to celebrate Boxing Day on December 26. Typically, it can resemble America’s Black Friday as a major day for shopping and watching sports. However, South Africa’s take on the tradition is far less materialistic.

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Known also as the Day of Goodwill, South Africans take time to fill boxes with donations for those in need. They may also host meals for the homeless. After giving back, families often take advantage of the Southern Hemisphere’s warm December weather, heading to the beach to enjoy the sun.

New Mexico’s Luminaries


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Luminaries are a charming and low-tech way to decorate your Southwestern home. Traditionally, you fill paper bags with a bit of sand to weigh them down and then light a small tea light inside them. Space each luminary out about a meter, lining your home’s exterior with the decor. A safer option is to use battery-powered flameless votives, avoiding a fire hazard. While luminaries are beautiful anywhere, they prove particularly stunning as decor on the adobe and Spanish-style architecture often seen in Albuquerque.

New Zealand Redefines Red, Green and White


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New Zealand decorates with the traditional Christmas colors of red, green and white, but not in the same way we’re used to in the States. Red represents the bloom on the pohutukawas (New Zealand’s Christmas tree). Green represents lush tropical plants offering generous shade on a hot Christmas day. Lastly, white represents vast, pale sandy beaches. Kiwis may cook up a Hangi (a Maori tradition of cooking the Christmas roast in a ground pit) and Pavola is a popular meringue-based dessert featuring fresh fruit and whipped cream.

South Florida’s Winterfest Boat Parade

Every December, Fort Lauderdale hosts Winterfest, a massive holiday-themed parade. However, what makes it special is that it happens with boats on the water. Attracting the type of talent you’d expect to see at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, this gathering features A-list musicians, grand yachts, extravagant light displays and is fun for the whole family.

Las Vegas’ Christmas Cacti Decor


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All across the Southwest, it’s common to see native cacti decorated with Christmas lights. Brave souls carefully apply the lights resulting in a festive desert scene. Las Vegas’ Ethel M Chocolates Factory and Botanical Cactus Garden is a great place to see a desert garden dolled up in its holiday splendor. Enjoy an evening stroll through the garden as a lovely way to get in the Christmas spirit and be sure to snag a bite of chocolate to sweeten the mood.

Australian Christmas Lunch

In Australia, Christmas can often be the hottest day of the year. Down under, they approach Christmas lunch menus with a summer BBQ mentality, eating fresh summer fruits and cold salads. It’s also common for Australians to enjoy outdoor activities like playing a game of cricket or heading to the beach for some well-earned family relaxation.

Mexico’s Posadas


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The Spanish word posada translates to “inn.” In Mexico, the posada tradition exists to reflect on Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, searching for an inn. During the Christmas season, people gather to sing Mexican Christmas carols and break piñatas. The popularity of posadas is growing beyond Mexico, now regularly celebrated in the United States as well.

Santa’s Hawaiian Attire


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When Santa says “Aloha” in Hawaii, he often foregoes his traditional warm winter suit in exchange for an airy Hawaiian button-up and red board shorts. It’s common to see Santa exchange his reindeer-drawn sleigh for a dolphin-drawn canoe in local art. In Honolulu, you can join the festivities at the well-attended Honolulu City Lights ceremony, but unlike other major cities’ Christmas gatherings, it’s common to retire from this event and head to the beach for a quick surf.

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If you have warm Christmas traditions that are meaningful to you, share this article. Merry Christmas… don’t forget your sunscreen!