Expat Christmas: Holiday Blues to Holiday Cheer

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One week til Christmas! This time last year I was hot off the plane from Europe and snuggled up with my ex in NYC, playing in the snow in Central Park, drinking hot apple cider at the Rockefeller Center watching the ice-skating, and doing some last minute Christmas shopping for my friends and family. 3 years before that when I spent Christmas in Europe for the first time, I was backpacking through western Germany, drinking glühwein, shopping at the Christmas markets, even sleeping in a castle on my way to spend a traditional Christmas in Norway with friends. And what am I doing this year?

This year I am not going home for Christmas nor do I have any fun trips planned for Christmas. Long story short, all my plans fell through and I have been far too busy to plan a spectacular alternative. Up until about a week ago, I was not very happy about this, and basically I pretended like Christmas wasn’t happening this year. I refused to do my normal Christmas routines to get me into the holiday spirit because I was convinced that I was going to spend Christmas alone, crying on my couch eating my feelings in boxes of marzipan and turrón and drowning my sorrows in Rioja red wine. HOWEVER, I decided to channel my hero Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother) and I decided to stop being sad and start being awesome instead…

So step 1 to being awesome at Christmas when you’re abroad: don’t be alone. Is there anything worse than spending Christmas? (ok, don’t answer that, you know what I mean) It sucks, nobody wants to be alone on Christmas, far away from friends and family. To prevent this, I decided that I am going to host a spectacular Christmas Day at my apartment in Logroño. It turns out that many of my expat friends will still be in the area on Christmas, so we are going to spend the whole day together, starting with a fabulous home-cooked brunch, secret Santa gift exchange, Christmas movie marathon and then a long Christmas dinner together! Perfect!

Step 2: decorate your place for Christmas. At first I didn’t want to decorate my apartment because I didn’t want to spend money on decorations that I couldn’t take back to the States with me one day. I also didn’t want to be reminded of Christmas. But you can’t have a Christmas party without Christmas decorations, so I decided what the heck, I raided the chinos (dollar store like places run by mostly Asians in Spain) for tinsel, garlands, Christmas trees, fake snow, ect. The best part is that I spent about 15 euros total!

Step 3: throw yourself into the holiday spirit. Being an elementary school teacher, it is downright impossible to ignore Christmas. I tried my best, but when you have to sing Christmas carols, color Christmas trees, and give powerpoints on what Christmas is like back in the USA 5 times a day, it’s hard not to feel festive. I may have come to loathe Jingle Bells, but at the same time, seeing all my preschoolers sing Frosty the Snowman, I can’t help but sigh, say awwwwww, and get excited for Santa too. I will try to sneak a video for you guys; 25 4 year olds singing is not something to miss!! Adorable!

Step 4: buy people presents, and buy some for yourself while you’re at it! I finding the perfect gift for someone! Makes me feel incredible! This year is harder since I am not going home to give people their gifts in person. However, I have been picking out things here and there for people, and I have more time to ponder gifts that I will undoubtedly get around to mailing in January. my Christmas gift this year is coming to me back from the States with C: a new Macbook Pro! So excited! Since I won’t be opening lots of pressies under the tree on Christmas morning under, I decided I’d go ahead and treat myself to a few things yesterday while I helped C do her shopping. Along with some other goodies, I picked up 3 things that I LOVE! I bought an orchid finally (l love flowers), and a cute lilac teapot, as well as a blue argyle hot water bottle. Seriously, why don’t we use these in America? They are wonderful! They stay hot and cozy for hours!

Step 5: focus on the positive. This week my brother and his wife finally had a baby! I am an aunt for the first time! And on top of that, I get to live in Spain and travel as much as I want. I am living my dreams right now! How can I be sad when I have such wonderful things happening in my life? I many not get to spend Christmas in a cool city in Europe or spend it with my friends and family back home in the USA, but I am thankful to be here and have this opportunity, and that’s what counts!

Step 6: Watch Love Actually on repeat. Best Christmas movie ever!

Have you ever spent the Holidays abroad? Any tips to beating the Christmas blues?

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3 Comments on “Expat Christmas: Holiday Blues to Holiday Cheer

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  1. I’ve been watching Christmas movies (including “Love, Actually”) and drinking a large amount of tempranillo. And also trying to be generally sweeter and less grumpy … because it’s friggin’ Christmas, and people should all try to be extra nice to each other. Feliz Navidad!

  2. I spent Christmas in Madrid last year, but I was lucky to have my Mom come to visit me 🙂 Also – I hate to say this because I always upset people, but I just don’t really like Love Actually. At all. I stick to watching The Grinch and Home Alone to kick up the Christmas spirit 🙂

  3. I can totally relate! I spent Christmas here in Spain last year and definitely felt homesick. Buying little things and making your apartment feel homey really helps though. It’s hard to draw the line between not buying anything here (because we can’t “take it back”) and having a semi-decorated place. I think making an apartment feel cozy is super important, so I’m glad you bought some decorations! Anyway, I hope you have a great Christmas this year and just remember all the people who will be thinking of you that day! Enjoy being with new people. Btw where is the picture of the Christmas market from– it’s gorgeous!!! Besos!

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