Celebrating Christmas overseas can be difficult. Family and friends are typically far away. The traditions and culture are different. And most of what feels familiar is absent. But, it doesn’t have to be.
If you are celebrating Christmas overseas as an international student in the U.S., we have written a comprehensive explanation of how to celebrate Christmas in America.
Our main piece of advice for people celebrating Christmas overseas is to embrace the differences in culture and traditions. Enjoy learning because chances are this may be your only opportunity to experience Christmas in that culture. The rest of your life will most likely be spent back in your home country, celebrating Christmas in the way in which you are accustomed.
This could be a great learning opportunity, and you may even want to incorporate some of the traditions you experience into your Christmas traditions back home. Some of the traditions you may encounter are things you would never have thought of. For instance, in Australia people may go surfing or have a barbeque because it is summer there. Families stop by the cemetery to commemorate the dead in Finland. In Austria, men dress up as Krampus (a devil creature) and frighten children. People eat buckets of chicken from KFC in Japan. In Mexico, people walk down the streets knocking on every door to re-enact Mary and Joseph looking for a room. And there are hundreds more traditions throughout the world.
We highly encourage you to enjoy the freedom you have this Christmas season by choosing to spend it however you choose. Before long you will have your own family and have the responsibility of creating traditions that your family will follow. This is your opportunity to celebrate Christmas however you want to. You can shop or not shop, eat whatever food you like, participate in as many or as few activities as you like, and decorate as much or as little as you like.
But, if you are really missing your traditions back home, it might be helpful to recreate some of them where you are. It is probably best not to recreate everything though. You can decorate your place, call your family, share your traditions and culture with others, and maybe even celebrate with other expats from your home country. There is nothing wrong with that, we recommend you don’t overdo it because that can lead to loneliness and the desire to head home.
If your host country does not celebrate Christmas, then one option is to travel to a nearby country that does. Here is a list of 15 of the best destinations to spend Christmas according to CNN. However, if you are going to travel, make sure you first purchase travel insurance. If you travel outside your host country, you will no longer be covered by your study abroad insurance plan. It is important to have travel insurance in case of an emergency because it would be awful to have your Christmas ruined by a financial or medical disaster. Our recommended plan for taking a short trip like this is Patriot short term travel insurance found here: https://www.goodinternationalstudentinsurance.com/patriot-short-term-travel-insurance-with-evacuation/
We hope you genuinely enjoy celebrating Christmas overseas, and if you travel, please do so safely.
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Have amazing and safe travels!