Okay, so I know spent my last post telling you all why spending Christmas abroad is awesome. Even though I stand by this, I know some people reading will not be convinced. Having been there myself once upon a time, I’ve compiled my top tips to getting through the festive season away from home.
The ‘not now’ Christmas
If you’re worried about spending the day alone and really don’t want to celebrate without your family, just defer Christmas. Arrange a date after you’ll be back together and schedule in a reunion then instead. Whilst it sounds a little radical on the surface (you can’t just move Christmas!) I know plenty of people who have several Christmas days to see family and friends all across December. Whilst deferring Christmas isn’t really in keeping with the tradition of the festivities, celebrating the big day is in no way compulsory and it is important to do what suits you best.
The ‘luxury’ Christmas
In case the idea of spending the festive season away from a warm cosy fireplace and a glass of mulled wine is just too much to bear, find yourself a swanky hotel and get ready for a day of ‘me time’. Everyday life can be stressful and we all have a tendency to neglect self-care. There are plenty of countries where life goes on as normal over the Christmas period so make the most of being able to have a pamper day. Nothing gets the endorphins flowing quite like a massage after all!
The ‘friend’ Christmas
One of the wonderful things about travel and expat living is the opportunity to get to know people from all different walks of life. You may be feeling sorry for yourself for missing out on the festive season but it is worth remembering you are not the only person in this position. Why not gather your hostel buddies and suggest doing a makeshift celebration all of your very own? During my time in China, the other foreign teachers and I recreated a typical British Christmas and had a great day. Spending the holidays with your new found friends is bound to cheer you up and bond you all closer together.
The ‘virtual’ Christmas
If you’re spending the holidays away from home, it is understandable to worry about being lonely. Traditionally, Christmas is an event that revolves around family and being away from your loved ones can generate a huge amount of stress, not to mention homesickness. To conquer this, at least for a little while, arrange a time to catch up with your family. There are loads of different ways you can stay connected with people these days and video calling services are perfect for special occasions. In order to pull off the virtual Christmas, make sure you’re staying somewhere with a good internet connection and your devices are fully charged.
The ‘alternative’ Christmas
Spending Christmas abroad offers a unique opportunity to experience the celebrations like a local. Whilst we all have our own traditions, it can be fascinating to discover what those from other cultures do to celebrate. Did you know that Portugal has codfish and potatoes over our traditional roast?! There is also the issue of what people actually do on the big day. In Rome, on December 25th, people gather in St Peter’s Square to watch the Pope give his blessing at noon. Whether you’re religious or not, there is no denying that this would certainly be a spectacle worth seeing!
The ‘volunteering’ Christmas
Whilst I am a big proponent of volunteering your time year round and not just at Christmas, this can be a great way to take your mind off of the homesickness and do something worthwhile. There are plenty of places who take on extra volunteers around the festive period including, homeless charities, food banks, dog shelters and education centres to name a few. Make sure you organise any volunteering during the holidays early though as spaces get booked up months in advance.
To arrange your volunteer work, check out GVI for inspiration and opportunities where you are!
The ‘adventurous’ Christmas
Perhaps one of the best things about being somewhere new for the holidays is the ability to explore without the crowds. In England, Christmas is a celebration that occurs largely in the family home. While sometimes people will choose to go out to lunch rather than have the stress of cooking themselves, Christmas morning very rarely sees many people out on the streets. Whilst I have never spent December 25th in London, I’m sure it would be a great time to explore the streets without the huge number of visitors that usually frequent the city.
The ‘drown your sorrows’ Christmas
And if all else fails and none of these options appeal, go back to humanity’s oldest problem solver: go get drunk. This should help you forget about your troubles (or might just make you wallow in them more) but either way, you’re sure to end up feeling disassociated from the whole thing. Don’t blame me for the hangover though.
What are your top tips for surviving the festive season abroad?
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