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Thanksgiving is next week for Americans, a time when the whole family typically gathers together. How will you be celebrating?
Whatever your nationality, the seasonal holidays of Christmas, Chanukah, Sinter Klaus, etc. are fast approaching. It can be disorienting and even lonely to have your first holiday far away from home, especially when everyone else in your new country goes about the day as usual.
I find the best solution for celebrating holidays in a new country is a combination of maintaining familiar traditions, embracing local tradition, and creating new unique activities. How will you celebrate? What new traditions will you make? Here is the formula I use for celebrating holidays far from home:
Creating New Holiday Traditions in Foreign Countries
1. Invite new friends to join
If the holiday is unique to your home country, like Thanksgiving for Americans next week, invite your new friends to join you in the traditions. Of course, if you know anyone else from your home country – invite him or her as well!
When your new friends participate in your traditions, it becomes a warm tradition for them as well. “Remember that time we…” And just like that, memories are built and friendships solidified.
2. Maintain some tradition
It goes without saying that to really celebrate a holiday, you have to maintain the parts of the holiday that are important to you. Whether it is the pumpkin pie of Thanksgiving or the poems of Sinter Klaus, maintaining some of the traditions connects you to the essence of the holiday.
One way to do this, especially on Thanksgiving, is to prepare a few of your favorite dishes from the holiday and explain the tradition to your new friends. Everyone enjoys connecting and experiencing new and unique traditions – and delicious food!
3. Create new holiday traditions
While maintaining some traditions, don’t try to make it just like it would be at home. And definitely don’t try to make it perfect. That is where new traditions come in.
Maybe there is something special in your new city you’ve wanted to try. This can be a show at a theatre, a museum, a walk past some fountains or in a park, or anything else that is a little bit out of the ordinary. Make it your new holiday tradition. Creating new traditions will make your holiday that much richer.
One fun tradition my family has added is to take pictures of ourselves in front of famous monuments in the new city on the holiday. It also makes for good Christmas photos to send out later. These new traditions can become something unique to share with family back home as well.
4. Connect with family and friends
Remember that family and friends in your home country are only a Skype, face time, or whatsapp call away. You can even join them for some time while they are in the kitchen preparing the meal, or while sitting around the table. When you join them, it is almost like you are there with them.
One caveat: make sure you have a fun day planned with friends where you are, as otherwise it can be sad and lonely when you hang up the call.
5. Connect with the expat community
In most countries there are message boards and websites dedicated to helping expats adjust to their new life. These boards are excellent ways to connect with people from your home country.
And what better time to connect than a national holiday? Use this excuse to reach out and join the expat community. You will be surprised how many common experiences you have – just from your birth country and newly chosen country.
In connecting, you can create traditions on special national holidays, as well as monthly meet ups or potlucks. I am a firm believer in connecting to your new country, but joining the expat community also keeps you connected to your roots.
6. Embrace new (to you) traditions
If the holiday is something more widely celebrated, like Christmas, embrace the opportunity to experience new traditions. Maybe you’ll go to midnight mass, or open presents on a different day than you’re used to. Maybe the three wise men will come to visit.
Whatever the tradition, embrace the new possibilities and perhaps they will also be woven into your family’s holiday traditions
Stability and Adaptability
In conclusion, remember you are in a new country, creating a new life for yourself. That takes courage – a lot of courage. Take a moment to appreciate your courage. You are amazing. But it can also be sad or lonely at holiday times.
However, if you remember the 6 simples steps above, and apply them, holidays may become an extra special experience on your travel adventure. Enjoy the adventure, and let me be the first to wish you happy holidays!
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