No Place Like Home for the Holidays… or Can There Be?
by Liz Sherman
Have you ever heard the song “I’ll be Home for Christmas”? The lyrics go like this:
I'll be home for Christmas/You can plan on me/Please have snow and mistletoe/And presents on the tree/Christmas Eve will find you/Where the love light gleams/I'll be home for Christmas/If only in my dreams…
For my whole life until now, I’d always identified with the first part of the song: “I’ll be home for Christmas, you can plan on me”. No matter what, I’ve always been in the door, around the tree by December 24th for our family’s combo Christmas/Hanukkah celebration. This year though, I’ll be singing the last two lines of the song. Location and circumstance mean that instead of NY tundra, I’ll be in India--hot, tropical, and with only 2.3% of the population being Christian (and far, far less being Jewish), not quite the same Chrismukkah atmosphere.
I’ve celebrated other holidays abroad before. I’ve been away for Thanksgiving for example, (which, in almost all of the rest of the world is known as “Thursday”) a grand total of seven times. What consistently impresses me about celebrating a holiday while away from home is how people rally to celebrate with me. No matter where I’ve been worldwide, my friends have made me feel at home--even if “home” in this case was just the feeling of being surrounded by love. My first year in England I hosted Thanksgiving dinner for 26 people. In Thailand, I ate noodles in the jungle and had to get a chicken out of my rafters with two brooms… but I appreciated he stopped by nonetheless. 🙂
Are you away from home and feeling like you need a boost? Here are my five pro tips to make the holiday season as nice as possible:
Think about what your favorite parts of the holiday and why they matter to you. If you can, replicate them, even if there’s a twist. Sure, it’s possible you won’t be able to be with your mom and dad, but maybe you have friends who want to come over for a meal and share joy. Absolutely love Christmas cookies? Grab some friends and do a cookie exchange - it builds community wherever you are and you’ll feel warm and fuzzy (plus, you guys, COOKIES.). Love to give back at the holidays? Do it - even if it’s something as simple as cooking for street dogs or donating to an organization you care about (check out our faves here!).
Decorate. No visual holiday cheer in sight? Bring it to your home. With no pine trees visible from my window, I bought a two foot pine tree in a pot and I’m using leftover Diwali lights to decorate. Palm trees the only option? Light em up! The birth of baby Jesus probably had more palm trees than pine trees anyway! No trees? Two words: paper snowflakes.
Draw on holiday beauty around you. No matter where you are, there are holiday traditions. Try (appropriately) adopting some local ones and adapting to your own holiday. India, for example is all about fireworks and lights at Diwali. Chrismukkah fireworks? Why not! They indicate celebration worldwide, and can serve as a way to bring local friends in on the holiday fun.
Spend time in community. Whether that’s with your community of friends, your national community (consulates often run holiday events), your religious community… whoever you consider your “people”. And don’t be afraid to toot your holiday horn! If you’re in a completely unfamiliar place where the holiday isn’t celebrated, people might not even know you need support or company.
Let yourself cry. Sometimes, the holidays just… suck. It’s hard to be away from people you love, or maybe you’re away because of strained relationships and that hurts. Self care is important, and while I don’t advocate spending the entire month of December in the fetal position, it is absolutely okay to feel your feelings, whatever they are! Then, when you’re ready, go to the top of this list and try to boost yourself up.
BONUS TIP! Want to support a friend who is celebrating away from home? When I lived in Thailand, another teacher at my school gave me an apple because I’d once said “apples remind me of home” and she knew it was a holiday for me. This little tiny gesture was so touching to me and really made me loved even though she had no idea what my holiday was about. Call your buddy and let them know you’re thinking of them. Bonus if you invite them to do something with you, or learn about their holiday and help them celebrate. The more love we give, the more we receive!
In NYC and want to feel joyous before or after the holidays? Check out our classes here and let us lift your spirit(s)!