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5 Tips to Celebrating the Holidays Abroad
At first I thought celebrating the holidays abroad might be fun. Then the closer it got to the holidays, loneliness started to creep in. No family around or old friends to celebrate with, what was I to do?… I began to panic. Luckily, when each holiday came, I found a way to survive and thrive.
So how are expats and travelers bringing their home into their life abroad? How are they celebrating the holidays and their cultural traditions far from family and friends? Here are some ideas…
1) Hold loose expectations
Not all countries celebrate the holidays to the extent we do in the western world and a country’s lifestyle and cultural gap may make it broader. Most of Asia, for instance, celebrates their New Year in February using the lunar calendar and Christmas is usually celebrated in countries where Christianity is present.
2) Let the cultural flow surprise you
So what if Christmas or Thanksgiving doesn’t feel exactly the same as you remembered it? Sometimes, this is not a bad thing. Instead, it’s an opportunity to see how it’s celebrated in another parts of the world. Do South Koreans go crazy for Christmas? Koreans they may not have sidewalks lined with Christmas pine trees, but they sure go crazy for cake!
3) Celebrate it with new friends, who are excited to recreate it with you.
Expat communities do it all the time. Just as travelers share the mutual bond of being a tourist to a foreign place, expat communities share the bond of creating a lifestyle abroad. Sometimes, these lifestyles seek to recreate a bit of tradition, but due to the lack of available fixings in the environment, must be done so through slight “workarounds”.
During Thanksgiving, many expat groups threw potluck gatherings to celebrate; some expat organizations sold Thanksgiving meals, complete with cranberry sauce, stuffing, etc… Holidays don’t have to be spent alone; they can be spent with those who miss good ‘ole western holidays too.
4) Share your tradition and celebration with others.
Holidays are the one time that seems to work outright, against being solo. Often because it’s often about sharing and celebrating with others. Nevertheless, you can still be solo and eat your cake with others. Just as you might thrill over experiencing the festivities of foreign holidays, others can find the same delight in your own customs and holidays. Sharing your holidays with others when you’re abroad, is an excellent way to feed the spirit and whether you actually celebrate it fully or not, you won’t feel without.
When I got to share my enthusiasm for Halloween and Thanksgiving with my Korean students and teachers, I was a celebrating it. Feeding others’ excitement for my culture, replicated those holidays for me and fed my true spirit of celebration.
5) Growing your Heart through Volunteering
Who is the number one person that I think of when the holiday season arrives? Honestly? Me. But the holidays are a perfect time to increase your heart span and think of others. The holiday season is a fantastic time to give your time to others through volunteering. You don’t have to travel outside of your city to share your generosity; you can donate your time to the local soup kitchen, an old folks home, an orphanage or larger local organizations, such as Meals on Wheels or Big Brothers, Big Sisters. If you are traveling and have a chunk of time to spend in one place, you may want to look into volunteering at children’s organization or orphanage (see Nomadic Chick’s post on Christmas in India).