WHO: ANDREW WALSH
GIFT: MELBOURNE TOY TRAM
Shake the gift boxes under Andrew Walsh’s Christmas tree this year, and you will likely hear the rattlings of a small wooden toy tram from the Melbourne Museum. “For something that says Melbourne, you can’t get much better than a tram,” says the artistic director of Melbourne’s White Night music, food, film, art and light festival.
Melbourne has one of the largest tram networks in the world and Walsh says that whenever his American friends visit, the first thing they want to do is ride it.
Held annually, White Night transforms the city with projections, art installations, live music, theatre performances and sport. It next takes place from 7pm to 7am for one night only on 21 February – festival season in Melbourne, which Walsh says is a time Melburnians make the most of the glorious summer weather.
“It’s about being outdoors and enjoying the lovely outdoor restaurants and pubs that are dotted all over the city,” he says.
It’s an approach that is also being applied to Christmas. Walsh is happy to have witnessed a move away from mimicking European Christmases with fake snow and hot roast dinners. Instead, Victorians are now embracing what he calls the ‘parkland experience’.
“There are fantastic little barbeque setups along the Yarra [River]. At Christmas time you see big groups gathered around them having a few glasses of wine, eating lovely seafood and enjoying the gorgeous weather and the wonderful setting of this metropolis against the parklands. To me that’s very much a symbol of Christmas and summertime in Melbourne.”
WHO: BABYMARY FALINE
GIFT: VINTAGE KIMONO
Christmas for Babymary Faline, owner of Faline boutique, is often celebrated under a blanket of snow and fairy lights. “It’s lovely to visit the different illumination displays around the city. There’s a particularly beautiful one on Omotesando [a street from Shibuya to Minato] where yellow lights adorn all the trees, Champs Elysees-style,” says Faline.
“Japan isn’t a Christian country so our Christmas is a copy of the western style of Christmas, with European meals. It’s not traditional Japanese or religious in any way, but it’s still a big deal,” she says. “Christmas is mainly a time to celebrate with lovers and friends by having a party or enjoying dinner out. New Year is the time for more traditional festivities and for family, when residents go to temples and Buddhist shrines.”
Being an iconic style and fashion figure, it’s only fitting that Faline should choose a vintage yukata kimono – a casual, unlined summer kimono usually made of cotton – as the gift that perfectly defines and encapsulates Tokyo.
“The kimono is a precious piece of Tokyo’s history that has remained a very special part of modern day culture. It embodies the Japanese devotion to aesthetics and beauty, as well as commitment to high-quality design and craftsmanship,” she says.
Faline’s favourite selection can be found at Ichinokura (1-15-1 Jingumae Shibuyaku, +81 3 5770 5669).
WHO: CHRISTIAN PUGLISI
GIFT: RYE LOAD FROM MEYERS
Christian Puglisi, head chef of cutting-edge Michelin-starred restaurant Relae, celebrates Christmas in icy climes. “When it snows in the city and everything is lit up with Christmas lighting it’s very beautiful,” says Puglisi. “The centre of Copenhagen also has three shallow artificial lakes surrounding it, they often freeze at Christmastime and people skate on them.”
It’s the perfect backdrop for the julefrokost, or Christmas lunch, which is celebrated with family, colleagues and friends throughout Copenhagen’s festive season. “People meet up and eat herring, traditional duck roasts with red cabbage and caramelized potatoes, småkager [traditional baked goods] and spicy pebernødder biscuits, and drink schnapps,” he says. “There’s always a little extra hygge in the air, which is a Danish word meaning the indescribable way Danish people enjoy themselves.”
The hygge can be particularly felt in Jægersborggade, one of the city’s busiest streets, in the vibrant Nørrebro area. Nearby in the suburb of Nansensgade you’ll also find vintage shops, bohemian cafes, and bars. “It’s a bit more commercial but also very hyggelig,” he says.
Food has become an increasingly large part of the lives of Copenhageners, says Puglisi. “People have become more and more conscious about good food and about going out for good meals, especially since the restaurant scene has exploded here.”
Indeed, the 2014 Michelin Guide awarded 17 stars to 15 restaurants in Copenhagen – the highest number ever.
With that in mind, Puglisi says a dense, moist loaf of rye bread from Meyers Bageri is the quintessential Christmas gift from Copenhagen. “It’s part of every meal here and a great souvenir of the city.”
WHO: PALLAVI SHARDA
GIFT: GANESHA MURTI
For Melbourne-raised Bollywood star Pallavi Sharda, who has lived in India for the past five years, it’s the Ganesha Murti that truly captures Mumbai.
“People often invoke Ganesha for new beginnings, making him the ideal gift for Christmas,” says Sharda. “Lord Ganesha is auspicious throughout India as he’s also considered the remover of obstacles, but he holds a special place in the hearts of Mumbaikars and Maharashtrians.”
Siddhivinayak Temple in Mumbai’s midtown (SK Bole Marg, Prabhadevi), where beautiful statues of all sizes can be purchased, is devoted entirely to the elephant-headed god, and during Ganpati festival (August/September), the city descends upon the coastline to immerse gigantic adorned Ganesha statues in the sea.
Christmas is the least dominant of India’s festivals because of the predominance of the Hindu religion, but Sharda says it’s celebrated more widely in Mumbai because of the city’s larger Catholic community.
“I live in Bandra, which is a very Catholic area, and a lot of the streets like Hill Road have Christmas stalls along them. The local communities do manger making competitions and hang lights and lanterns in the streets too,” she says. “Midnight mass is a big part of the celebrations and you see hordes of beautiful old Catholic ladies walking to church.”
Christmas brunches are held at restaurants throughout Mumbai, where Sharda says waiters often wear cheesy Santa hats. Those celebrating Christmas also head to bars such as Bonobo (Kenilworth Mall), or have ‘bake-ups’ in their homes, despite sweltering temperatures.
Sharda says Diwali, India’s annual explosive festival of lights in autumn, can be considered the Hindu version of Christmas and really kicks off the festive season. “People often wish you Happy New Year on Diwali – it’s the time when people wear their new clothes, do a spring clean of their house and there’s an exchange of gifts like at Christmas.”
WHO: RIKER BROTHERS
GIFT: REEBOK SNEAKERS & GYM PASSES
The sun usually shines over LA during Christmas; the palm trees are draped in Christmas lights and the city comes alive with festive spirit, says Drew Riker, half of the LA-based Riker Brothers photography duo.
“One of the most festive areas is The Grove, a big outdoor shopping area that does a huge Rockefeller Centre-style Christmas tree, fake snow on certain nights and a Santa Claus for the kids. It feels like Vegas; they’ve got music booming from speakers and a great restaurant scene,” says Riker, who pegs Loteria Grill at The Grove’s Farmers Market as his favourite spot for a meal over the Christmas period.
“The other really happening place during Christmas is the beach at Santa Monica; my brother and I always visit Santa Monica Pier, shop at Third Street Promenade and have a drink at the Sonoma Wine Garden rooftop bar overlooking the ocean,” he says.
The Hollywood Christmas Parade that runs along Hollywood Boulevard adds celebrity sparkle to the season, making it another of the brothers’ quintessential LA Christmas experiences, along with seeing the Christmas lights off the canals at Venice Beach. And then there are the glittering parties. “Not many people are actually from LA but come from all around the country to work here, so there are a lot of big holiday parties thrown right before everyone leaves town,” says Riker.
As for a gift that encapsulates LA, the Riker Brothers nominate fitness classes and a pair of Reebok CrossFit Nano sneakers to help keep the body beautiful in the New Year. “Because LA is based around the entertainment business, everyone’s really into fitness,” says Riker. “It’s really common for people to gift fitness classes, say for SoulCycle, boot camp or CrossFit.”