Izzy Ashton | an expat in Asia
Spending the holidays in a different country can feel adventurous and exotic. It can also feel lonely. Separated from family and traditions, familiar festive foods may be hard to find. Decorations may look different or not be available at all. And as people around us gather with their relatives, we miss our own.
What are some ways we can embrace Christmas abroad?
Use Things from Home
We moved to our new country in August. Packed away with my clothes and spices was my favorite pine-scented candle. Now that the holidays are upon us, this wonderful fragrance fills my home as well as my heart. During my first Christmas in Asia, I could not find peppermint extract to make the cookies I wanted. That next trip home, I stocked up. Thinking ahead helps everything come together.
Check Out Local Customs
Some countries may not observe Christmas, but they may have another type of celebration in the same season. In Turkey, for example, malls are decorated as families gather for the advent of the New Year. Spain and Latin American countries celebrate Three Kings Day in early January. How does your new country celebrate this time of the year? Lean into this new season with curiosity, asking coworkers and friends what this time of the year means to them.
Travel to a Christmassy Locale
There’s something magical about a city lit up in holiday lights and markets that sell mulled cider and roasted chestnuts. If Christmas isn’t observed where you live, see if you can travel to a place nearby that does! We found affordable flights to a few cities featuring colder weather and yuletide celebrations. It’ll just be for a few days, but we’ll look forward to and soak in yet another kind of holiday cheer. (If you’re in Asia, a quick trip to the Philippines could be just what your Christmas-longing heart needs, as their season lasts from September 1 all the way through the New Year. Get your Christmas fix and go to the beach, all on the same vacation.)
Stay Connected with Family
Our Christmas family Skype time is a tradition we’ve picked up since living overseas. We can join in my family’s Christmas morning gift giving and my husband’s family Christmas dinner without the travel. It’s not the same, but we are grateful for the connection time. We also like thinking about creative ways to give gifts from far away. With technology, we can send gift cards and order presents on Amazon. One year, to give our family in the U.S. a taste of our current celebrations abroad, we sent a package to them filled with holiday foods from our host culture. back to the U.S.
Invite Others to Join You
Do you have a tradition you love to share with friends and family? Maybe it’s baking Christmas cookies or gathering around your living room to sing carols. It could be as simple as a meal by candlelight. Look around. Consider whom you could invite to share that with you. A young couple who just arrived in your area? A single man or woman who needs community? A local university student, eager to learn about your traditions, too? Share your excitement with others as you connect with your traditions and family back home.