For those of us who celebrate Christmas, the time of year typically revolves around festive decorations, delicious food, and family. But many of us uproot our lives far away from family and such an important aspect of Christmas get removed from the equation. This year will be my second Christmas away from home, putting me at about a year and a half away from home total.
Being away from home at any time of the year can be difficult, but throwing the holidays into the mix makes it so much harder. Even while being surrounded by friends, it can be lonely. I had a wonderful time and enjoyed the company of my friends here in Korea, but I got my first true taste of homesickness when I missed out on all my favourite traditions of Christmas back home, like all the cooking and baking, throwing a big party for friends and family on Christmas Eve, opening stockings and enjoying eggs Benedict for breakfast.
I managed to keep up with a few of the traditions, and also found other ways to make my Christmas away from home enjoyable and memorable. If you find yourself away at this time of year, perhaps some of these tips can help you find enjoyment and happiness amid the homesickness, and let’s be real, FOMO.
Start new traditions with friends
If you’re time away involved joining an already established foreigner community, then there are likely some traditions that already exist among the group. Everyone is in the same boat and the community tends to be eager to spend the holidays together. In my city, the foreign teachers enjoyed a fantastic night together at a resort near us. We rented a massive room for the night, cooked up a mouth-watering potluck, hit up the slopes, shared some Secret Santa Swap, and played classic games like King’s Cup well into the wee hours of the night. Plans for this year’s Christmas bash are already in motion!
For many of us away from home, we find ourselves in places where Christmas isn’t particularly important. This is definitely the case for Korea. Though interest in the holiday is growing, it’s still seen more as a couples holiday, and you don’t have the same golden-tinsel-slap-in-the-face everywhere you go from November onwards. No Mariah Carrey blasting through the stores, no green and red candy, no Love Actually on the TV.
This initially made me feel a bit down on the holiday season, as it felt like I was just skipping over it all together. So I spent a couple evenings chopping up some 3D snowflakes, made some gingerbread houses with my students, and decorated my apartment with twinkly lights (which are still up). This helped me get into the Christmas Spirit and it made going back home at the end of the day leading up to Christmas so much more enjoyable.
Share your traditions with people around you
Ok, this is not a suggestion to start pushing your religion or culture on other people. Please don’t do that. But it’s a great opportunity to teach others about what this time of year means to you. If you’re in a situation like me, teaching in a country that doesn’t really celebrate the holiday, maybe bake some Christmas cookies for co-workers, or suggest a little Secret Santa among the office or friends. People generally enjoy receiving gifts, so it’s likely to be a hit.
It’s incredibly easy to get sucked into a vortex of binge-watching Netflix and lazing around the house as the weather gets cold. Unfortunately, this can be a great set-up for finding reasons to mope at this time of year. So try to find activities to keep you busy (and productive) and keep your mind of the saddies. For me, I keep busy by cooking, baking, climbing, snowboarding, and reading. There’s simply no time to have a blue Christmas with that much going on!
Remember why you’re away
Of course, being away from home may not be in our control, and we all have our own reasons for leaving home. But for many of us, it comes down to having good work opportunities, or the privilege of travel. Reminding myself that another Christmas away from home means I have a great job and I get to travel to Thailand in January really helps stave off the Christmas blues.
While you’re at it, write a gratitude list
Once you’ve reminded yourself of why you’re away from home (hopefully it’s a positive reason), write out a little gratitude list. What are you thankful for? For me, it’s having a stable job, a great family, an amazing boyfriend, loving friends, the opportunity to travel, and good health (and lots more). It’s a great time of year to remember all of this things anyway, and the list will remind us of all the reasons to be happy as the year closes.