Article by XIANEASE
If there is ever a time when the expat lifestyle gets hard, it is around special occasions, especially those holidays which are typically designated for family. With travel restrictions still in place, many who would typically head home for the comfort of familiar surroundings will find themselves stuck both far from home and without a clue of what to do. Even those well-seasoned expats who are experienced with the whole holiday away from home situation may find themselves a bit adrift this year, as friends and family who may have come to call will not be able to do so this year. So, whether this is your first year away from home or your fifteenth, you might need some help recreating a bit of the holiday magic right where you are.
Gather Your People
Holidays are not the time to be alone, and though you may consider yourself an independent person, trying to tough it out during the holidays can leave you with an empty feeling inside. Instead of self-imposed holiday exile, try to gather together with people with the people around you. This might be your friends, co-workers, acquaintances, or just some random folks that you happen to meet. They don’t have to be your best friend to spend your holidays with them and you may discover that some of these loosely affiliated individuals are people that you might want to spend more time with outside of the holidays. Or not. Either way, you’ll have a chance to share your holiday cheer with others, and they will have the opportunity to do the same.
This can be made even more interesting if someone has never celebrated the holiday before, or celebrates it a different way than you. The chance to show someone your traditions and experience those of others is a treat you’d rarely find at home.
Forge New Traditions
Speaking of traditions, it’s not always about doing it the same way you did at home. Trying to recreate some of the holiday magic from back home can seem near impossible, and sometimes it is. Instead, reach for what you have on hand and make the best of it.Can’t cook a turkey because you don’t have an oven? KFC and Christmas have become synonymous in Japan, why not do the same here? It doesn’t have to make sense. It can be foolish. Many family traditions, when you really look back at them, are the result of families doing what they could with what they had and making it special in its own right. You can do the same.
Set the Mood
One thing that some expats complain about is the lack of the holiday ‘feeling’. To a degree, this is true outside, as you won’t see or hear much in the way of holiday accoutrements. Some Western chains, such as Starbucks, will lean heavily into the Christmas theme, but for most places, it’ll be just another day. It’s up to you to get the spirit going. The best place to start is at home, where you can decorate your place. Set your computer or TV to play some Christmas music. Put up a crappy little plastic tree and put some lights on it. Light a pine scented candle. Make mulled wine in a rice cooker. Whatever it takes. If possible, do some decorating at the office as well. While most locals don’t celebrate Christmas, many understand its importance to their foreign colleagues and are willing to give you some leeway when it comes to celebrating the holiday. Once you create a suitable environment, getting into that holiday groove will become just a little bit easier.
Though it’s been sometime for many of us, as children, the anticipation of the holidays was palpable as soon as December rolled around, each day growing and growing until we waited restlessly on Christmas Eve. While those days have past, (most of us enjoy sleep more than we did) there is still something to be said for being able to look ahead and see something to do in the future. So, make your plans early. Whether it’s a potluck, buffet dinner, gift exchange, or simply an extra special night at the bar, having something to look forward to can really brighten your mood, and help you pull though.
Part of the melancholy that can seep in this time of year is people that are missing from our lives. Whether friends or family, it can feel like there is a hole missing somewhere along the festivities. So set aside some time this month and reach out to those that you miss. Whether a long or short conversation, video call, or just a text message, now’s the time to get in touch. If you feel awkward reaching out, or feel bad for not talking to the person in such a long time, remember that they may be feeling the same way. So be less nervous about it and just do it.
This may seem a bit simplistic at in places, but celebrating your holidays doesn’t need to be complicated. The life of an expat doesn’t need to be a lonely one, and even though you may have made it this far on your own, it doesn’t mean that you have to continue on alone. We at XIANEASE hope that you will all have a great holiday season, and that you will continue to get out there, and discover your Xi’an.