11/19/12

When Being Home for Christmas is Only in Your Dreams

There will inevitably come a time in your life when spending Christmas away from family, friends and all things familiar is your only option. Whether the separation is caused by work, distance, choice or destiny, these following tips won't bring you or your loved one home any sooner. But, with a little preparation and the right attitude, it can make the separation a lot easier.

Celebrate However You Can

If you are used to eating a turkey dinner on Christmas Eve but that fowl is no where to be found, use chicken instead. Don't try to ignore the holidays hoping they'll go away. Celebrate in any way that you can including improvising with what is available to you. Buying a Christmas tree might not be an option, but oh well, decorate a house plant instead. Make paper chains and write a list to Santa to hang on the wall. Call your family and make a list of what you are thankful for this year. Your situation – even if it is being stuck in a hotel room – will immediately brighten.

Appreciate Where You Are

The year I spent in China was the first Christmas I spent away from home. Christianity is not widespread in China, therefore Christmas is a non-religious, hardly celebrated holiday. It wasn't like home where we'd have enough piles of presents under the tree to ensure my parents set the home alarms every night and re-check them twice. I didn't expect much, but was pleasantly surprised that year. It's tradition in China to give and receive apples – which symbolize safety and happiness – on Christmas. It's now a tradition I've brought back home with me. Though possibly different than what you are used to, appreciate where you are and the local traditions around you.

Make New Traditions

Holidays are intricately woven with traditions, family, memories and expectations. Part of what makes spending them alone or in a new place so lonely is the loss or change of what is familiar. If you are used to driving around looking at colored lights or drinking hot cocoa while watching snow fall, it can be difficult to spend Christmas Eve without a car in a city that is a balmy 80 degrees. Instead, make new traditions. If you are going to be gone the whole month of December, celebrate the 10 days of Christmas by sending a card or small gift to a loved one each day. Look for ways to celebrate even if it means trying something new.

Encourage Family to Celebrate Without You

Accept that you are sad to spend the holidays away, but don't make others feel guilty for celebrating without you. Encourage your family and friends to celebrate without you in person, but try to include yourself as much as possible. Collect interesting things to send home and use an Internet phone service like Skype to video call home. If possible, plan on celebrating the holiday twice: once on the actual date and again when you are reunited.

Document the Days

I found journaling about everyday experiences made celebrating Christmas alone bearable. Take pictures, stop for the small stuff and document each day of celebration. Surround yourself with pictures of family and friends, but don't dwell on their absence. If traveling abroad, contact your embassy to see if it will be holding any holiday celebrations for its citizens. If just out of state, see what festivities the city has to offer. Whatever you do, make this Christmas memorable enough that next year when you are reunited with family and friends you'll be able to look back at this experience and smile.

Guest post by Maribel Lee
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