The holiday season is here so I thought I’d share my experiences spending Christmas alone with others who were living abroad among 14 mixed nationalities and four continents around the globe. I’m not an advocate for how to cope with living away from family, but I did have an excellent time spending Thanksgiving alone, as well.
In 2015, as I have mentioned many times before, I spent a year in Europe traveling alone. Over the course of that year, it led to many holidays without family that I hadn’t ever been away from. I got caught spending Christmas alone for the first time in my life. I didn’t know what to expect as to how I would feel and what kind of emotions there would be to overcome for spending Christmas alone.
Now, of course, I’m not about to say I didn’t miss my family. There were many times over the course of the year that I missed my family and friends back home. However, I felt remorseful that I never had an empty feeling over the holidays.
Spending Thanksgiving alone, onto spending Christmas alone, then New Years, and followed by a few other holidays passing, but I never felt that I was without family. That is in large part due to the people who I did find myself spending time with over those holidays. The group of mixed nationalities with crazy cultural traditions that we called a family for one semester.
I was studying on the small European island of Malta for most of those holidays. During which, I found a group of friends of mixed nationalities that seemed to grow exponentially as the year went on. Being that most of my friends were international students studying at the same university I was, they, too, were away from their loved ones.
It was in those times that we bonded more than ever as more than just friends, but a temporary family. There was one week in particular that this felt the most evident.
Spending Christmas Alone But Not Alone
It was the last week of December. With Christmas and New Years coming up, most of the group (being from other European countries just a short, inexpensive plane ride away) headed home for the holidays. When they returned, we would only have a few short weeks left in the semester. It seemed like the whole study abroad experience was coming to a lackluster close.
There was only a small group of about ten or fifteen friends staying in Malta for the week. I wasn’t particularly close to most of them. Some of my best friends were a part of the group that headed home for the holidays so that they weren’t spending Christmas alone.
I was concerned that I’d feel lonely as my family participated in all of our usual crazy cultural traditions back home in America – only without me. As we were approaching this week, I became a little sad.
What I didn’t expect was how close I grew to the small group of mixed nationalities who remained in Malta in such a short amount of time. It still amazed me how naturally the entire group came together in just a week. The entire week, out of fear of spending Christmas alone, we all hung out every night of every day. It didn’t matter if there was a plan or not, we’d always be ready and accepting of anything that the night brought us.
We watched movies around the fireplace and decorated our community Christmas tree. We taught each other holiday recipes and cooked each other holiday treats. Then, on the night before Christmas (as most Europeans I was with celebrate the actual day on the 24th), we shared our own crazy cultural traditions from our own homes at a Christmas party I hosted in my own flat. There was even an organized Secret Santa gift exchange!
We all shared holiday music from around the world and a week later we counted down the New Year on rooftops and partied the night away under fireworks. It was a week to remember.
Spending Christmas Alone: Mixed Nationalities Growing Closer
We helped each other host holiday parties in each others’ flats – each with their own quirky, crazy cultural traditions. It’s almost as if no matter whose flat we were in, we were always all at home. I had no idea how to host a Christmas party to accommodate 14 mixed nationalities spanning four continents. But with the help of others, the night came together fabulously. Everyone was there to help out and share their crazy cultural traditions and no one complained about anything.
Acquaintances became friends and some friends grew even closer. It was the most unique holiday season I’ve ever experienced and I wouldn’t change any of it.
Looking Forward to Spending Christmas Alone Another Year
In fact, I even look forward to the next time I can experience a holiday season away from my norm. A Christmas at home in Kansas City will always be nice and comfortable. However, I can still honestly say that I miss the experience of spending Christmas alone with a room full of mixed nationalities and crazy cultural traditions. It’s the perfect way to quickly learn culture and traditions around the world.
So, to those spending Christmas alone or spending Thanksgiving alone this year – try not to feel lonely; especially if you are abroad. If you’re an expat living alone abroad, that means there are others just like you out there. Reach out to someone where you’re living because it’s likely that they’re feeling the same as you. After all, ‘tis the season to come together and share crazy cultural traditions and mixed nationalities. More importantly, to enjoy the presence of others around us.
You would be surprised how close you become if everyone opens up and welcomes company from anyone. That’s the only way you learn how to cope with living away from family.
If you’d like more information on how to cope with living away from family, I’ve been living abroad for two years and would love to help!