expat network

Embracing New Traditions: How Expats Make Christmas Their Own


Christmas is all about tradition, nostalgia, and spending time with loved ones. But for expats, it can also be a time of loneliness and unfamiliar customs. While the folks back home are decorating trees, opening advent calendars, and sitting down as a family for a traditional Christmas meal, expats are sometimes somewhat more solitary, far from their home country, and without many of the normal comforts that the holiday season brings.

Of course, while spending time away from home at Christmas can be a challenge, it can also be a wonderful experience. Expats get the opportunity to do the holiday season a little differently, to try new traditions, meet new people, and explore exciting festive flavors.

So whether you embrace the frozen weather of your new Scandinavian home and set off to see the Northern Lights on a cruise, or you just enjoy experiencing Panamanian Christmas traditions after your move, here are some of the best ways expats can make Christmas their own by blending the customs of their host country with the traditions of home.

Fusion of Festive Flavors

One of the best things about spending Christmas in an unfamiliar country is the chance to discover a different festive cuisine. An expat Christmas is a wonderful fusion of flavors, combining elements of traditional cooking from their home country with local culinary customs. It creates a delightful blend of the familiar and the new and gives expats the chance to mold their new Christmas experience into something unique and personal.

Christmas Cultural Exchange

Sharing customs, traditions, and Christmas activities is a lovely way to bond with new friends and neighbors, and this cultural exchange is one of the most delightful aspects of an expat Christmas. Getting together with your new community, showing them how you celebrate, and then taking part in a few of the local traditions (or customs from other expats!) makes for a charming Christmas experience. It ends up being a beautiful blend of customs and this shared sense of celebration can help form stronger bonds to last the rest of the year as well.

Unique Decorations

Decorating your home is a lovely part of the Christmas season and expats should remember to bring a few trinkets and decorations with them wherever they end up. But it is important to embrace the style and unique decorative traditions of your new home too, blending your own pieces with those of the local culture to create something fun and unusual.

Seasonal Adventures

The most exciting part of an expat Christmas is the chance to discover unique local holiday traditions. From joining a lantern parade in Thailand or lighting a Diwali lamp in India to taking part in “La Misa del Gallo” on Christmas Eve in Latin America or going wassailing around an apple tree in the UK, every country has its own interesting way of celebrating the season which can become a cherished part of an expat’s festive experience.

Volunteering and Giving Back

With fewer set commitments and family occasions to attend, many expats find that they have more free time than they would usually expect over the holidays. As a result, it is an excellent time for expats to engage with their adopted community by giving back, through volunteering or local community outreach and events. Not only is this an incredible fit with the spirit of the season – goodwill to all and that – but it is an incredible way to integrate even more deeply with the local community and make friends for the rest of the year.

Being an expat comes with a huge amount of benefits, but the holiday season can also be an amazing and rewarding time. By blending the traditions of home with those of a new culture expats can create a Christmas celebration that is unique and totally their own.