Whether you’re celebrating Christmas in a different country, or just with a different family, not being able to take solace in your typical traditions can be disconcerting and difficult. Though I’ve traveled to a variety of places, I’ve only been away from family once for Christmas. So for this post I’ve made something a bit more serious than my typical stories – a how-to for surviving the holiday season far from loved ones.
1) Pack Your Traditions: For me, there’s nothing that says Christmas like having crêpes for breakfast, my Dad’s specialty. That was therefore something I requested when I was abroad, and helped prepare. If you have something that really makes the holidays for you, tuck it into your suitcase. Maybe it’s a little ornament, or a singing moose (we always put one somewhere out of reach so people can’t repeatedly push its button), or even a favorite past present. Little things like that will make you feel like you’re still at home, even far away.
2) The Christmas Call: It goes without saying that you have to call your family/friends on Christmas day, no matter what time zone you might be in or how inconvenient it is. Now, this phone call can be a good and a bad thing. While it’s great to hear the happy voices of your parents, siblings, and relatives, it can also be difficult to realize that they’re all celebrating without you. If you feel yourself coming down with the holiday blues after such a call, make sure to completely immerse yourself in your surroundings. Perhaps in your new location you aren’t even celebrating Christmas, which could make it more difficult, but no matter what you’re doing, be there for it instead of wishing you were still home. Which brings me to point number three…
3) Embrace the Change: As much as we like the comfort of old traditions and homey comforts, it’s important to really immerse yourself as fully as possible into your host country/family. This is a great way to learn about their culture, and just who they are as people. The more you push yourself to really enjoy the experience, the less lonely you’ll be and the better memories you’ll have. The last thing you want to do on Christmas is cry about how you wish you were home. Go out and have some drinks with friends! Eat too many cookies! Sing off-pitch Christmas carols in different languages (plus, singing usually disguises accents, so your sudden lack of American accent will be a Christmas miracle for everyone to celebrate)!
I hope these tips are helpful and allow you to make the most of your holidays abroad. And if you’re not abroad, maybe take the opportunity to mix it up and bring some of your past foreign experiences to your home. Who knows? Maybe Mom and Dad will appreciate la bûche de Noel and other such traditions!