Your first time celebrating Christmas away from home can be tough, despite the fact that there may be a lot of new things to explore in the new place. From visiting some of the best Christmas markets in Europe, to enjoying some of the new Christmas dishes across the globe. Celebrating Christmas when you’re away from home could still be special for you. If anything, maybe it can be some unforgettable experience for you if not your best Christmas ever.
So, are you planning to celebrate Christmas far from home? Or are you doing it intentionally but somewhat you still want to keep the Christmas spirit alive?
I’ve gathered some fellow bloggers to share their ideas of celebrating Christmas away from home. What are those? Let’s check this out! 🙂
Traveling on Christmas Day
As an Indonesian myself, Christmas isn’t really a big holiday for us. Being raised in a Muslim household made me even harder to relate to the specialty of the holiday for me personally. Sure there’s some big Christmas sale at the mall, but it has never been that special for me.
Ironically, it was only after the increasing number of Muslim radicals in Indonesia that made me aware of how Christmas day is special. It was when I read the news about how they gotta strengthen the security of churches during the special day, in fear of terrorism taking place during the mass.
And it’s not without reason, because we had some series of bombings that killed people during Christmas eve. The event only made me ironically aware of my friends’ safety and security. They deserve to celebrate Christmas in peace, as they should.
But then it also forces some of them to celebrate their Christmas day somewhere far from Indonesia, in fear of something bad happening in our home country. And the idea inspired me to create an article about traveling on Christmas day and how to enjoy the full of it even though you’re away from home.
Things You Can Do to Keep the Christmas Spirit Alive When You’re Away From Home
The only time I traveled during Christmas day was when I traveled to Vietnam. I spent the Christmas eve around Hanoi, from visiting Hanoi Night Market to strolling around the Old Town. The road was full of people and vehicles that I swear it might be the worst traffic jam that I’ve ever seen throughout life. It’s almost ironic since I spent some parts of my life living in Jakarta complaining about the traffic.
But you know what? I didn’t even complain about the traffic jam in Hanoi during Christmas eve, because I actually enjoyed the night when I strolled around the city to meet Brittany, a fellow traveler I met there to spend our Christmas eve in Hanoi.
We ended up celebrating our Christmas eve in a small cafe in Vietnam’s capital city while talking about some random stuff, and Brittany surprised me by giving me a small bag of puppy chow cookies. She’s American, and apparently these cookies tasted so delicious, I could almost taste the cookies right now that Christmas is around the corner! 😛
And exactly for this reason, I decided to compile a list of things you can do during the holidays when you’re far away from home. So, how would you keep the Christmas spirit in a foreign land? Here we go!
1. Dress like Christmas.
I’m from Sweden – Christmas for me usually means snow, being with my family and eating lots of delicious Swedish Christmas food and candy. This will be my third Christmas away from home and, since Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, this part of the year is always a bit tough!
However, I’ve realized that I feel so much better when I do small things that get me in the mood for Christmas, such as wearing a Santa hat and a Christmas sweater. This year I’ll be celebrating Christmas in a warmer country though, so it’ll probably be more like a Christmas t-shirt – but those extra touches definitely make a difference!
I can really recommend “dressing up” when you’re traveling during Christmas, it helps to keep the spirit alive. Also, you’ll probably get a lot of smiles from strangers and maybe even a Merry Christmas!
Amanda from My Backpacker Life.
2. Check out the local Christmas light displays.
Nothing makes Christmas feel like Christmas as much as pretty fairy lights do! Christmas lights are a pretty universal tradition and it’s safe to say that most towns and cities on the planet will have a variety of Christmas light displays somewhere around the place.
In Australia, many homes join in the annual Christmas Lights display and some even enter the competition for the best display in the local area. You can generally find a list of addresses for all entrants online and in local media outlets (newspapers and local radio websites).
We always make it a tradition with the kids to make a list of streets to go and look at during the nights leading up to Christmas. It’s so much fun no matter how old you are or what town you find yourself in!
You can bet that the local town centre will also have a large Christmas tree with lights and maybe even the whole main street will be lit up! Why not grab a hot chocolate and go for wander to wonder at the beauty that is Christmas at night time.
Emma from My Rig Adventures.
3. Meet fellow travelers and expats through Couchsurfing and celebrate Christmas together.
We were in Ireland for the Christmas holidays, and after celebrating Christmas Eve by ourselves – just the two of us – we wanted to get together with other people on Christmas day. We didn’t know anybody, so we decided to check out what was going on on Couchsurfing.
We were lucky, as we saw a conversation about going out on Christmas Day. A local expat organized it, so we decided to join. It didn’t take much time until we mingled with the group. Some of the people were living in Dublin for quite a while and suggested nice pubs and bars to hit, others were visitors of the city and followed.
It was something that locals did too – turned out bar hopping is a Christmas tradition in Ireland, so it felt quite good immersing in local culture while finding new friendships, all of that accompanied by the best beers Ireland has to offer (and the country has so many of them to offer).
What a great way to spend Christmas day, turning strangers to friends and having fun in the beautifully decorated Dublin!
Bistra and Nace from The Magic of Traveling.
4. Bring gifts to the local orphanage.
Christmas is about kindness, family, and giving in addition to it being a religious festivity. So, what could be better than to bring gifts to those who are in need of it the most? Orphans have lost their parents, and will likely have a sad time around Christmas.
Almost every city around the world has an orphanage, and most of them will accept gifts or some other kinds of donations. Giving something to an orphanage doesn’t have to be expensive gifts either. As long as it will make the kids happier or give them something that they need, it’s a great idea for Christmas.
Even if you’re far away from home, you can make a difference. It will certainly keep the spirit of Christmas alive, and you’ll make others happy, who might otherwise be almost forgotten during this time of the year since they don’t have their own families to celebrate with.
Alex from Gourmand Trotter.
5. Participate in some local Christmas traditions.
I’ve been traveling full-time for two years now, and being away from home during Christmas is still tough for me. It’s difficult being away from friends and family during this magical time of the year.
However, participating in local Christmas traditions can ease the sadness of being away from home. For example, Christmas markets are quite popular and plenty all around Europe. Taking a stroll down, the lit-up streets can put you right in the Christmas spirit despite being far away from home.
You can find out more about the local Christmas festivities at coffee shops as they usually have fliers posted about what’s happening around the city. You can also ask the hotel/hostel you’re staying at about what Christmas festivities are taking place. For example, the hotel I was staying in Bali recommended a Christmas dinner to me and I met lots of new people that made me feel home.
Disha from Disha Discovers.
6. Put on some mini Christmas decoration to remind you of the special holiday.
Even though you may be a long way from home and loved ones this Christmas doesn’t mean you can’t still get into the spirit. My favorite things to do around the holidays when traveling are to buy little decorations or even a mini tree if I’ll be in one place for a week or more.
It’s amazing what having a few decorations does to your mood. I’m someone who loves Christmas so I’ll try and get into the Christmas spirit as much as possible this way.
If you’re traveling with others, it’s a fun activity for each go and buys a surprise decoration for the hotel or apartment. Last year, my partner and I decorated our hotel room for under $20, put a crackling fireplace on Youtube and played Christmas carols while drinking wine. It was perfect.
What you buy will end up being beautiful souvenirs that you can use in the Christmases to come and you will always remember the time you first celebrated Christmas with them. There are also many decorations you can make with paper, which is also a fun idea if traveling with kids.
Erin from Curiously Erin.
7. Skype with your family.
On the one hand, I would consider myself very lucky to have spent the last 3 Christmases on the beautiful beaches of Western Australia. Located three hours south of Perth is the paradise surf town of Dunsborough, and my second home.
As a Canadian, it is a nice change to escape the cold winters and spend Christmas laid out on the beach in 30-degree heat. However, with the pros of beachside BBQs, comes the cons of being away from family during such an important holiday.
For most people, one of the key components of Christmas is spending it with the ones you love. In an effort to make the holiday feel more special, it has been very important to make time to Skype or FaceTime with my family each year.
Being able to talk with and see my family is my way of making the day feel more Christmassy. While not quite the same as being there in person, it is a close second. Holidays away from home have become so much easier being able to see my family, share the day and connect instantly.
As an avid traveler, and someone who spends more time abroad than at home, the power of Skype to connect me to family and friends has been a game changer for me.
Roxy and Luke from The Coastal Campaign.
8. Stream your hometown’s favorite radio station and enjoy their Christmas Day broadcasts.
It’s easy to become lonely while traveling during the holiday season, especially when you’re far away from friends and family. Having spent several holidays away from home, I have found that one of the best ways to get me into the festive spirit is listening to the Christmas Day broadcasts on my favorite radio stations.
It’s fantastic because no matter where I am in the world, I can stream them online. There’s something about hearing those familiar old Christmas songs sung by my favorite artists that makes me feel closer to home. I just can’t help but sing along and find myself smiling in no time.
Personal favorites include “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” by Bing Crosby, “Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives and “Feliz Navidad” by José Feliciano. Some of the best Christmas Day radio broadcasts even include spoken stories such as “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”, “A Christmas Carol” and “A Christmas Story”.
Naturally, music and stories will never cure the holiday blues, but they do provide some familiarity when you are far away from home at Christmas.
Megan from My Canadian Passport.
9. Caroling on Christmas Eve.
Are you away from home on Christmas day? For most people, this can be a lonely experience, but it does not have to be. There are dozens of fun activities you can use to keep yourself entertained.
One of my favorite ways to keep the holiday spirit going is by singing Christmas carols. It is a great thing to do even if you are far from home and barely know anyone in your destination. For example, I first learned about this when I moved to Wyoming, U.S.A from Africa and did not have any family around.
I went to a nearby church Christmas carol service to meet people in the community and keep the African Christmas traditions alive. I can honestly say it was one of the best days of my life.
You may be wondering why attending a Christmas carol service was the first thing that came to mind. Well, the reason is that Christmas carols play an essential role in my Nigerian culture, especially around the holiday season.
Local musicians have composed dozens of well-known hymns, which we sing in our local languages, the most famous of these kinds of music being the “Betelehemu,” written by the Grammy-nominated drummer Babatunde Olatunji.
So if you are ever alone on Christmas, get yourself down to the local church and see what is happening. You might love it as I did!
Lydia from Africa Wanderlust.
10. Stay warm and cozy during Christmas day.
When it comes to traveling on Christmas Day, there’s nothing better than staying warm and cozy. If you can’t be sitting around your own home in your pajamas, why not try to find the closest equivalent in whatever city you’ve visited?
The best way to find a warm and cozy ambiance is to look for locations that feature fireplaces. Hotel lobbies and bars are often a great place to start. Many higher-end hotels welcome their guests with a crackling fire, especially in the winter. Find a comfy chair in the corner to get comfortable and relax.
Cocktails bars that are more intimate and dimly lit are another perfect spot to indulge in a cozy atmosphere. Warm your insides with some delicious libations as you unwind and decompress from the stresses of traveling.
Lastly, the best way to stay snug while traveling over Christmas is to drink all the hot chocolate you can find. Whether you discover it in a quaint little coffee shop or at a store selling other types of candy, search out the best hot chocolate (or drinking chocolate as it’s known in some countries), toss in some marshmallows if you can, and enjoy.
Laura from Adrift Aesthetic.
11. Christmas on the beach that you can enjoy in New Zealand.
Christmas on the beach is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. Our day traditional starts like most other countries with the opening of presents with family and loved ones. However the suns up just after 5 am shortly followed by the kids.
This is usually accompanied by breakfast on the deck/balcony. It’s a mixture of pancakes and a cooked breakfast on the BBQ. At this time the sun is already starting to heat up as the kids play outside with their Christmas presents.
It’s not long before the togs (swimsuits) are on, the picnic basket is packed with Christmas goodies, sunscreen is applied, boogie and surfboards under the arms and finally with blankets and beach toys at the ready, we are set to go. For us, it’s a short two-minute stroll across to the beach. Now we are lucky! White sand beaches, beautiful water and plenty of space to enjoy the Christmas spirit.
It’s a relaxing day on the beach and while the sun in Papamoa, New Zealand can pack some heat there is nothing better than cooling off in the sea or grabbing the surfboards and catching a few waves.
Scott from 4 Degrees of Destination.
12. What’s Christmas without snuggling while watching some series of Christmas movies?
This holiday season, my partner and I will be celebrating expat Christmas in our new home of Prague. This is the first time we’re spending Christmas away from our families back in Canada.
Christmas is my favorite holiday and I love attending big family parties, eating way too much food, listening to carols, and catching up with all my loved ones. But since we can’t do that this year, we’re still trying to feel the Christmas spirit by keeping up with some of our favorite traditions.
One thing my family does every year is a family movie night where we watch some of the Christmas classics. The most beloved in our house is Love Actually. I have such fond memories of my dad laughing along to Hugh Grant’s dancing scene or my sister rushing to cover our little brother’s eyes during some of the not-so-PG moments.
So, even though we’ll be in Prague this Christmas, we’re still planning to have our own Christmas movie night to help us feel a little bit closer to home.
Riana from Teaspoon of Adventure.
13. Stroll around to get the best Christmas lights in town.
With busier and busier work and school schedules, many of us find Christmas break the only time to fit in a vacation. And while it’s always exciting to go somewhere new, you still want to be able to make the holidays special, especially if you’re traveling with kids.
One of our favorite activities to still give our family that “Christmas feel” is to search out and visit local Christmas light displays. This could be anything from a local neighborhood that goes all out to a beautifully decorated festival or even a popular shopping area.
Do a google search, ask the locals, search social media, or check with the visitor’s center to find the best places. After talking to some locals last year, we found the most epic park covered in thousands of lights just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Christmas lights display always get us in the Christmas spirit when we’re away from home over the holidays.
Julie from More Than Main Street.
14. Have yourself a lovely Christmas playlist to listen to!
I’ve celebrated many Christmases away from home, and one thing I always make sure to have with me is a playlist of Christmas songs that I can play on my smartphone to get me in the Christmas spirit. Of course, if you have Internet access and use an app like Spotify, then you could also just search for a ready-made Christmas playlist there.
But if there are any particular songs or Christmas carols that bring back special memories for you, then you’ll probably want to have access to those specific songs.
As a personal example, when I was growing up my family always played a Christmas album by a musician named Roger Whitaker. His music, which is often described as “easy listening” or “adult contemporary”, is not something I would normally listen to. But that album has the power to transport me back to the Christmases of my childhood more than anything else can.
And since it’s a rather obscure album that doesn’t get much airplay these days, even during the Christmas season, I’m always really happy to have a copy of it at my fingertips. Find the songs that mean something special to you, and keep them on hand to play during the holidays for a little Christmas cheer.
Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan.
15. Dedicate yourself to a good cause, volunteer, and spread the jolly Christmas spirit!
One of the best things to do during Christmas, even more so when you’re away from family, friends, and any resemblance to the festive season, is to give your efforts and time towards a good cause. A cause that is greater than yourself and that has the potential to impact the lives of others. Why not volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen?
The Christmas spirit is all about bringing peace and joy to the world. Volunteering during the holiday season is particularly important as many parts of the world are experiencing colder temperatures, making homelessness particularly difficult.
It not only helps to bring families together, but also helps to uplift those individuals that find the season incredibly taxing. In addition to serving food at local shelters, in-kind donations are also needed as food banks and soup kitchens are always looking for donations. Doing your part in this way is almost guaranteed to keep the spirit alive and remains one of my favorite things to do when travelling no matter how many countries I have been to.
Rai from A Rai of Light.
16. Bake some Christmas cookies and spread the love to your neighbors.
Baking and decorating Christmas cookies is a perfect way to keep the Christmas spirit alive even when you are away from home.
First off, you get to create awesome cookies in the shapes of Santa, Christmas trees, elves, reindeer and more. Decorating your creations is so fun, basically like an edible art project. Second, you get to eat the cookies! This is a Christmas time activity that you get to enjoy for days afterward! The gift that keeps on giving.
Head down to the nearest grocery store and pick up some sugar cookies, frosting, sprinkles, and cookie cut-outs. Spend an afternoon making an absolute mess in the kitchen while baking and decorating the most beautiful Christmas cookies you’ve ever seen!
This is an excellent activity to do whether alone or in a group. And if you make a huge batch, you can offer a few cookies to your neighbors to spread the love. Baking and decorating Christmas cookies will put you in the Christmas spirit no matter where you are around the world. Spread some Christmas cheer and make a few sweet treats while you’re at it!
Zach and Julie from Ruhls of the Road.
17. Celebrating Christmas where it is not seen as a big holiday? Make your own version of Christmas instead!
I have spent a few Christmases in Japan. It is a bit surreal as although Japanese people love Christmas, they do not celebrate it in any way you’d expect!
The main tradition is to go out for KFC (they have special Christmas meals that you have to pre-order) and then have a strawberry cream cake. However, Christmas is not a national holiday and most people think of it as a date-type event rather than something you do with your family.
All the shops remove their Christmas decorations on the 25th of December, so on Christmas day, you’ll need your own decorations!
The first year I spent there, we couldn’t find Christmas trees for sale anywhere (either alive or fake), so we made our own. We got a pile of cardboard and decorated it to look like a tree. This was a fantastic way to get closer to my student friends at the time.
If you are ever far from home, somewhere that doesn’t have western Christmas tradition, making your own is a creative, fun way to get into the Christmas spirit!
Josy from A Walk and A Lark.
18. Attend the local Christmas mass or concert!
If you’re religious, you can definitely find the nearby church that provides Christmas mass that is delivered in English. If you stay somewhere around the city center wherever you are, chances are you’ll find a big church somewhere that may have an English Christmas mass during the special day.
In fact, it doesn’t have to be English since you can still attend a mass to just hear the prayers in the local language, and most likely listen to the local version of Christmas songs. It could be a different experience that is worth to do when you’re away from home during the holidays!
Otherwise, you can always find some Christmas event somewhere around the city. Be it a Christmas concert where you can enjoy the Christmas songs and sing along and maybe make a donation, or just stroll around the city and feel the Christmas vibes with the locals.
Me, The BeauTraveler.
What’s Your Favorite Christmas Activity When You Travel?
Now that I’ve listed some of the recommendations you could do during Christmas, have you celebrated Christmas far from home? Or are you planning to do it this year or some time in the future?
What kind of Christmas activity are you going to do to keep the Christmas spirit alive and spread the jolly Christmas vibes around? Drop me a comment below, and cheerio! 🙂