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Spending the festive season without family is one of the biggest challenges when travelling and living abroad. It’s hard to be without your loved ones –  from the build-up in December through to Christmas Day itself, and that time between Boxing Day and the New Year is usually when you’d be surrounded by family – which could make it difficult to  spend Christmas abroad.

We’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that hard. Thanks to technology, it’s now easier than ever to bring together family celebrating Christmas, even if that family happens to be scattered all over the globe. We’ve put together our best tips and Christmas celebration ideas to help you bridge the distance this festive season and enjoy every second with your faraway loved ones.

Make the most of technology when spending Christmas abroad


Whether it’s a WhatsApp group for the holidays, a hashtag on Instagram or updates via Facebook Stories, social media can make the distance between you and your loved ones feel smaller this Christmas, through sending photos and videos in real time to share your experiences.

With a little time zone coordination and planning beforehand, it’s possible to see your family face to face and with the use of Skype or Google Hangouts you can get everyone around the same (virtual) table for Christmas lunch or dinner.

You can still cook all your family favourite dishes and enjoy each other’s company, even if you’re thousands of kilometers apart. Other things you can do with family over video chat apps:

  • Gather around the Christmas tree and open gifts together (bonus points if you managed to mail gifts back home in time for Christmas!).
  • Pull Christmas crackers, wear the silly paper hats and share the jokes and riddles inside.
  • Enjoy eggnog or a cup of tea together, while swapping your best memories of Christmases past. 

You could also encourage your family to take part in a photo-a-day challenge – like Capturing December challenge. These photos can then be collated, curated and turned into a photobook that can be sent to family members as a memento of the holiday.

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Spend time learning how Christmas is celebrated in your new country

Every country around the world has unique twists on the traditional holiday. Take a look at Facebook and other social media platforms for Christmas events happening near you and get out there, meet the locals and make some new holiday friends.

Enjoy other people’s holiday spirit. Whether it’s a stroll down the main street or checking out the light display at other people’s homes, Christmas isn’t just a time for family, it’s a time for community. Go enjoy the massive tree in the town square, watch a performance of The Nutcracker, or show up for the Christmas parade. No matter where you might be, there are people celebrating the holidays around you – connect with them!

Soak up the festivities at a Christmas market

This may not be possible in all parts of the world since not everyone celebrates Christmas, but most big cities will hold some sort of Christmas or winter market – even if it’s only to cater for visitors. For example, you’ll find many Christmas markets between November and December in China to cater for seasonal travellers. If you’re in Europe over Christmas, you’ll definitely have no shortage when it comes to choice of markets, as they’re extremely popular in Austria, France, Germany, Spain, and the UK.

Enjoy sharing your home traditions with new friends

All it takes is a few friends who’re at a loose end for the holidays to come together to have a good time. As for Christmas celebration ideas, you could watch Christmas movies, cook together or go out to eat. You can play Christmas games, dress up in ugly Christmas sweaters – there are plenty of easy ways to enjoy the holidays with your chosen family.

If you’re feeling up to it, you could share your favourite tradition with your new friends. That special stuffing or cauliflower casserole that your mom makes; or baking Christmas-shaped cookies using your ouma’s favourite sugar biscuit recipe and getting fancy with the icing and sprinkles – only you know exactly what it is that’s going to feel like a little slice of home and family. You might have a favourite Christmas movie (or non-Christmas movie, like the Die Hard franchise) – such as Home Alone, or The Nightmare Before Christmas – so queue them up and make a big bowl of popcorn.

You could also start some new traditions with your friends – like volunteering at an animal shelter or old age home over the holiday period. There’s nothing like hanging out with someone who will really appreciate your presence to bring a smile to your face and make you feel good about how you spend your time.

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