Keeping the merry in Christmas as an Ex-Pat
Blog by: Dr. Nicola McCaffrey Clinical Psychologist

Keeping the merry in Christmas as an Ex-Pat

For those of us living overseas the festive season can be a particularly challenging period.
29.November 2023 Dr. Nicola McCaffrey

Christmas is a time of year that we typically associate with warm celebration, ritual, tradition, cheer, and spending time with family and friends. It can be a much anticipated time filled joy, gratitude, connection and nostalgia. Despite Christmas being a holiday largely full of positivity, it is often accompanied by tight preparation and even busier schedules. With the addition of the pandemic and all of the stressors that it has brought with it we might expect that Christmas 2021 will be more stressful than usual!

For those of us living overseas the festive season can be a particularly challenging period, in large part because it is a time of year so synonymous with family and close friends. We watch people around us making plans with their core families and it can bring a sense of sadness and loneliness that we might not experience at other times of the year. In addition, at the very time we might feel like jumping on a plan and returning “home” the restrictions of our freedom to travel brought on by the pandemic, and the escalating cost of flights, can render this an impossibility.

But there are a few things that we can do to ease the longing for what, and those that, we miss at Christmas.

Accept and embrace that things will be different
Recreating some of the traditional practices from home will inevitably make Christmas overseas more familiar, especially when children are involved. However, don’t miss the opportunity of incorporating new customs. Plan something special whilst also leaving room to allow it to be different from what you know. Welcome the difference instead of trying to make things the same as they have always been, adopt the attitude of “enhancement” rather than deprivation. The advantage of having Christmas away from “home" is that you both get to reinvent some of the usual aspects as well as erase the less desirable parts that no longer fit. If we can go into the festive season accepting and embracing change we will feel less stuck and more hopeful about what can be achieved and felt as we live through it.

Be organised, but not controlling
For example, do arrange times to connect virtually with your loved ones and wish them a merry Christmas; do allow yourself the time and space to create a fitting holiday photograph; do make sure that you have enough for the food and drinks that are meaningful and important to you. AND remember that there is only so much that you can control, organise and plan for. Try to kindly remind yourself that the magic is in the spontaneity, the flow, and of course the mess!

Embody the Christmas spirit
Christmas abroad is all about attitude. Entering into it with the attitude that you are going to enjoy this Christmas and moving through it with an attitude of welcoming, makes it is easier to focus on the positive aspects of the season rather than letting them go by unnoticed. Bring focus and attention to the joys, as well as the pains, of the season. 

All that’s left to say is….  

Merry Christmas Everyone!

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