Ohio State punter Cameron Johnston, who grew up in Australia where Christmas is a hot-weather holiday, is spending this Christmas with friends and family exploring New York, which radiates for the holidays.
Geographically, Cameron Johnston is a long way from home this Christmas morning. Philosophically, though, not really.
For starters, the Ohio State punter is visiting his girlfriend and her parents in New York City. On top of that, his father and sister flew in to join them for a good, old-fashioned Manhattan Christmas. They arrived from Australia, where he was born and raised. He came to the U.S. when he made American football his pursuit two years ago.
"It means a lot to have them here," Johnston said. "Last year was my first Christmas away from my family, and Christmas has always been a big deal for us. To have them here is special, and to have them stay for the game means a lot, as well."
Johnston and the Buckeyes will take on Alabama in a College Football Playoff semifinal next Thursday in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. It seems Johnston, his father and sister are going to be traveling almost as much as Santa Claus the next week or so.
But the past few days were all about experiencing the holidays with his girlfriend, Sami Jurofsky, her parents and his family, and exploring Manhattan, which radiates during the holidays.
"I've done a lot of the tourist stuff because I've never been to New York before, and it's a place I've always wanted to go," Johnston said. "So it's really been fun. And it definitely has lived up to expectations."
Jurofsky, a senior on the Ohio State women's rowing team, has been the primary tour guide. Along the way, she persuaded Johnston to try ice skating.
"He'd never been on skates before, and he was struggling, so that was really funny to begin with," Jurofsky said. "But he's a natural-born athlete, so of course he picked it up pretty fast.
"He's loving New York, and it was fun to see his face as he saw all the buildings for the first time."
Talk about culture and climate shock, though. He's from Geelong, Australia, near the country's southeast coast. In the southern hemisphere summer has just begun, which means Australians spend Christmas in shorts and sunscreen, not parkas and boots like in the U.S.
"Christmas is a lot different - one year back home it was 110 (degrees) on Christmas Day," Johnston said. "A lot of times we'd end up just going to the beach because it was just so hot."
But Aussies have seen the classic Christmas movies and read the classic stories.
"That's what was funny about last year; I was calling people back home and telling them it was cold," Johnston said. "It's kind of nice being in the weather like it is in those (Christmas) movies."
But truth be told, "I think I was a little more jealous of where they were. That one last year was a little rough."
Primarily because he was so far from home for the first time.
"In Australia, we don't really have a holiday like the Fourth of July like you have here, so Christmas is the real big one where all the families come together," Johnston said.
It's the hanging out, not the gift exchange, that makes it special, he said.
"One of the great traditions, all the boys, we couldn't wait to get outside and be playing backyard cricket," Johnston said, referring to a condensed version of the international game. "It's a lot faster than the real game, there's a lot of made-up rules. It's always competitive, but it's always a lot of fun."
Ice skating at New York's Bryant Park and in Central Park with Jurofsky, taking in the sights, welcoming his father and sister, and hanging out with Jurofsky's family made up for missing a cricket game, he said.
"Christmas is really about the quality of people you're spending it with," Johnston said. "That's what you're most thankful for. That's why this is so nice, spending it with Sami's family and with my family, as well. It's a special time."