There is a saying, “There’s no place like home for the holidays.” Celebrating a Christmas away from home can be challenging, but there are still ways to make it a magical and special time of year. Read on for 7 helpful strategies to use if you are away from loved ones in December.
Are You Celebrating Christmas Away From Home This Year?
I think most people would prefer to be at home with family for the holidays, but sometimes we don’t get a choice of where we are going to spend Christmas due to work, finances or even our health.
There are also those who choose to go out of town during the holidays. No matter the reason you are celebrating Christmas away from home, it is still possible to make it meaningful.
I’ll never forget the first year I spent Thanksgiving away from home during my first semester of college. I was excited to visit my boyfriend’s family and get to know them. I pictured myself as young, independent, and ready to be out on my own. I was shocked when homesickness hit me — hard.
Some friends of mine shared how their whole family was excited to fulfil their dream vacation of spending Christmas at Disneyworld, which is decorated amazingly for the holidays. They were surprised to discover themselves unhappy because as much as they enjoyed Disney, it was nothing like the holiday traditions and comforts of home.
Other reasons you might experience Christmas away from home include:
- Travel for work
- Cost of flying or driving home is too expensive
- Spending time with a new boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse’s family
- Military service
- Mental or physical health
- Choosing to separate from dysfunctional family
- Loss of a loved one
- Living in a different country or living internationally
How to Make Christmas Away from Home More Meaningful (7 Helpful Ideas!)
1. PLAN AHEAD
Planning ahead is a very important step when you will be enjoying Christmas away from home.
How do you want to celebrate the holiday? If you want to keep some of your regular traditions, you might consider:
- Traditional foods from your family or culture to make or buy
- Christmas movies to watch
- Christmas music
- Giving to others, like Christmas caroling or donating to those in need
- Christmas worship at a church
- Reading the Christmas story from the Bible
- Advent readings by candlelight
- Reading The Night Before Christmas, A Christmas Carol or other traditional Christmas stories
- Driving to see Christmas lights
On the other hand, you may prefer to skip what’s traditional and celebrate the holiday in your own way with something unique like:
- Having a dinner of your favorite foods, even if they aren’t typical holiday fare
- Enjoying a meal of all appetizers or all desserts
- Watching movies back-to-back in the theater
- Eating at a restaurant
- Going to do a fun activity like ice skating, sledding, or a walk around a park
2. SHIP YOUR GIFTS
If your destination is known ahead of time, you can wrap and ship gifts to yourself so that they don’t travel with you. By doing so, your gift will reach its destination, prepared to be unwrapped.
This is especially important if you will have children with you at the holidays. It is important that kids still have a magical Christmas and Santa will still need to pay the kids a visit on Christmas morning.
Also be sure to ship gifts to loved ones back home so they know you are thinking of them.
3. SHARE THE EXPECTATIONS
Every family has its own customs and ways of celebrating the Christmas holiday.
If you are supposed to stay with relatives during your trip, let them know what your family traditionally does at the end of the year, and how you can work together to make the holiday special for everyone.
Set realistic expectations, because the holiday this year won’t be exactly what you are used to, even if you celebrate in similar ways.
If you are staying at a hotel or resort, you can inquire ahead of time about different amenities they may offer during Christmas holidays.
4. STAY CONNECTED
Staying connected with your family is so important during the holidays.
If you can’t be with your family on Christmas there are many easy ways to stay connected thanks to technology.
Some simple ideas for staying connected include:
- Plan a time when you will both watch the same holiday TV show or movie
- Phone calls
- Video chat
- Plan a Zoom time to play a holiday game or open presents
- Stream video of Christmas morning, Christmas dinner, or other family moments
- Share short video clips
- Use apps like WhatsApp or Marco Polo to share texts and video clips
- Share funny Christmas GIFS and memes
Remember to consider time zone changes when scheduling calls and video chats.
5. CELEBRATE LOCALLY
Depending on where you are celebrating Christmas away from home, it is possible to get involved in the local Christmas events.
If you typically go to a Christmas Eve worship church service, do a quick Google search of the area and see which churches are offering services.
Find fun ways to make the holidays special and immerse yourself in the local holiday customs. This will add some new and fun memories to your Christmas.
6. DECORATE YOUR SPACE
If you are not at your house for the holidays it doesn’t mean you have to scrap all decorations.
How to Decorate a Hotel Room for Christmas
Here are some creative ways to decorate a small room if you are on vacation or traveling at the holidays:
- Get a small tabletop Christmas tree. Many come in a box with decorations included.
- String Christmas lights over the room mirror, headboard of the bed, or bathroom mirror
- Buy a Christmas hand towel for the bathroom
- Check out the dollar store, craft store, or Amazon for inexpensive Christmas decorations
- Put up pictures of loved ones or Christmas cards you receive
- Decorate your door with one of these creative Christmas door decoration ideas. Other guests will love the cheer you bring!
- Get an Elf on the Shelf and send pictures home of where you Elf moved during the night (especially a great way to connect with kids!)
- Get an Advent calendar to mark the days until Christmas or until you can go home again.
If you don’t have room to take the decorations home with you, then donate them to a shelter or Goodwill before you leave.
These ideas can also be used for decorating a dorm room, small apartment, rented room, or other places you stay.
7. ALLOW GRIEF
Allow yourself space to grieve the different holiday this year, especially if this isn’t what you would have chosen or if it’s your first Christmas away from home.
You may be tempted to think “everyone else is having the perfect holiday” but this is not true. Even people who are celebrating at home, surrounded by family and friends, aren’t having the perfect end to their year. All families have drama and dysfunction.
Everyone has loved ones they have lost or those they wish could be with them during the Christmas season. Many people are celebrating the holiday on their own and may be lonely. You are not the only one sad at Christmas or far away from home.
Even if this was a planned Christmas getaway or Christmas vacation, still expect to feel some sadness because the holiday isn’t typical.
How do you make it special even if you are celebrating Christmas away from home? Share in the comments and let us know.