This was my first Christmas away from home ever. My boyfriend, however, has been away from home for the past six years. Whether it’s your first time or your sixth or twentieth, being abroad during the holidays can be emotionally tough.
My blues about missing the holidays started during Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and missing it for the first time in 21 years not only hurt my heart, but also my stomach. Thanksgiving is a time for my family to gather together, spend time with each other, be thankful for each other, and eat my mom’s delicious mashed potatoes. Missing out on this holiday made me realize that missing Christmas would be even harder.
The holidays are a time to gather with family, but if you’re abroad for school, work, or pleasure, it can be difficult to do that. You’ll probably feel the twinge of homesickness and loneliness, but there are ways to deal with the fact you won’t be home.
First and foremost, don’t think that you can’t celebrate with your own traditions. I’ve been playing classic Christmas hits since the beginning of December. I’ve been following my mother’s Christmas tree posts on Instagram to feel like I’m home (pictured above). I even went out and bought an advent calendar, something I always had growing up, for my roommates and I to battle over every morning. Watch some holiday movies, head to Starbucks for a holiday themed coffee (or make your own), wear an ugly sweater, go ice skating, bake cookies, decorate a gingerbread house, do whatever you can to make yourself feel at home.
Bring your traditions with you, but also partake in some of the traditions of the country you’re visiting. Some places, like Madrid, take pride in their Christmas light displays. Lots of places in Germany have Christmas markets. Japan eats KFC for their Christmas dinner. Anywhere you are, there are opportunities to get a taste of what Christmas traditions are important in your host country. And if you’re in a country that celebrates something other than the holiday you usually celebrate, you have the chance to learn about a whole other celebration.
Call your family. They miss you just as much as you miss them. If you want to both hear your family’s voice and see them, use WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime, Facebook messenger, or whatever app you have to video chat your family. Video chats are also great for “doing” an activity, like having dinner or lighting the tree/menorah. If possible, maybe you could even coordinate a visit from friends and family to come visit.
Explore. Nobody says you have to stay home during the holidays. Head to a new part of town or to a new city or to a new country. A change of scenery can be a good cure for homesickness.
Being abroad for the holidays can be tough emotionally, but there are several ways you can feel right at home. Wherever you are, make sure to tell those you care about that you care about them. And enjoy everything your host country has to offer, while offering your host country a taste of how you usually celebrate. The holidays come around every year, so if you can’t be home this year, there’s always next year.
Also published on Medium.