Celebrating when not together

Ok, so we have felt our feelings and talked about them (and if you haven’t yet, then read this post here!)  The next step is how can we still have a meaningful Christmas, New Year, Easter or Birthday (any special occasion really!) with whoever we spend it with and also develop connection with those other friends and family near and far?

heart in lights expat away from family at christmas

Here are some practical ways that we can make the best of the season and still feel connected to those near and far – whether family or friends:

  • Involve everyone in planning the holidays – chat about what you most like or would miss doing over the Christmas or Easter period and how you can include or amend it. It might not be the same this year, but we can use it an opportunity to talk about our favourite traditions and seeing what creative alternatives we can come up with.
    A friend of mine has a tradition that the kids cook a simple course each on Christmas Eve or Easter Sunday, so not everything is down to the adults – it might not mean you have a traditional feast, but it might be a new tradition for your family (some easy recipe ideas for kids of all ages here). 
    You could also create a ‘spreadsheet’ with what could be done each day with different colours for each member of the family / group including any video calls, food prep, clearing up etc etc.  Giving ownership and also getting organised!
  • Make some Christmas or Thanksgiving gifts for each other/teachers/whoever – yes, this does require a bit of planning and preparation, but home-made presents are definitely more appreciated.  Plus if you are not going to see some people until 2021, you have all the holidays to make them!!  Some cool ideas for home-made gifts are here

    One idea for a home-made (and cheap) present could be a canvas like this one my kids made for me last year, by cutting out things from magazines and newspapers.  A cool, cheap, personalised gift that maybe each member of the family could do for someone else.
home made vision canvass
  • Gratitude –  yer, we know that ‘gratitude’ has become a bit of a buzz word and has been done to death, but it is largely because it works.  Make a list of a few things that you are grateful for, maybe each day or on significant days during the holiday period, you could even put them in a jar and read them out to each other before meals or at the end of the day.  It does help counteract our mind’s propensity to be negative and you will increasingly notice things to be grateful for.  
  • Year high and low lights – set a timer and ask everyone to either write or say what the best and worst experiences were of this year and what they have learnt about themselves or others.
  • Helping others – doing something special for someone else certainly helps them, but it also takes us out of ourselves – as a lot of research has shown.  Calling someone that is on their own, donating to the foodbank or finding a way that is meaningful for you / your family to help out can also really make a difference to our mental state and feeling connected.
  • Create family traditions or continue ones from your families whether around food, games, films you watch or whatever.   Rituals are very important in creating a sense of belonging and comfort for many of us, especially during the Christmas or holiday season.
zoom call socialising remotely expat
  • Find ways to stay connected to family and friends.  I know we are all a bit sick of quizzes and zoom meetings (especially if some of us are ‘technologically challenged’), but they can be important ways to stay connected and involved together this time of year.  Whether it is a series of brief facetime or skype calls throughout Christmas day or a Birthday including opening presents, whether from each other or just to share the experience, toasting each other before lunch all in posh frocks or a full-blown kahoot quiz or game of bingo. Other ideas include singing carols together or karaoke, watching an online Christmas or Hanukkah service or all watching a tv programme, favourite Easter, holiday film or online panto together and then chatting about it afterwards.    
  • Play some games – together or online – for example, two Truths and a Lie. Ask everyone to write down 2 personal truths and one lie about themselves, and then ask them to take turns sharing the items on their list while the rest of the family/friends tries to determine which item is the lie. This is a quick and easy way to lighten the mood and get everyone laughing while learning personal facts about one another!
  • Charades – everyone loves this – don’t they?! It is a holiday tradition. 
  •  You could also ask yourselves who have you not connected with as much this year as you’d have liked to and contact them to connect again – whether a distant family member or an old neighbour or school friend.
hands in shape of heart communicate expat
  • Looking through photos and videos of previous years or just this one, it is actually surprising how much we forget year to year. Kids particularly love looking and watching themselves as babies – it is pretty much a guaranteed winner. 
  • Create Christmas or Easter competitions with family or friendship groups.  For example, my in-laws have been Whatsapp-ing us each day in December with two joke questions for us to guess and message by the end of the day. We also have to create a Christmas decoration by next week (eek!) and all perform a song/dance/whatever on Christmas day.  Entertains the kids and the grandparents!!
covid christmas away from family and home
  • Make more effort to decorate the home – this doesn’t have to be more expensive decorations or lights, but making homemade ones, e.g. paper chains (remember them?) it can actually be very therapeutic (I think!)  and digging out all the decorations and going wild with them can help make it all feel like a bigger deal.  Not everyone is into craft, but here are a variety of ideas, some of which are super easy!
  • Have a holiday disco – create a playlist and have a dance – it almost always lifts the spirits!  Some ideas for modern songs here or for us slightly more mature adults there is another version here
  • Spread out opening the presents out throughout the day or even over several days.  One of these best things we ever decided to do with our kids (we started when they were very little) was to only open a few presents each day for either Birthdays or Christmas – it spreads out the fun and means that we can really enjoy each toy / game / whatever without rushing onto the next thing.  
  • Create a seasonal tablecloth – get a blank cloth/piece of material and you can all decorate it as you wish or write things you are grateful for and bring it out each year and add to it (just remember to use permanent marker!)

Just a few ideas to help make this holiday period special with our loved ones, whether near or far.

What have you got planned over a festive period or special occasion to celebrate and stay connected with loved ones? It would be great to hear from you in the comments below…………

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