Holidays as an Expat

shutterstock © Alena Ozerova

Holidays as an Expat

Tips for re-energizing holidays you used to celebrate back home

By Neeha Mujeeb

Originally published in Global Living Magazine – Issue 21 | Nov/Dec 2015

If there is a time when you truly miss home, it’s likely when there is a holiday that you used to celebrate back home but is unheard of in the city/country you currently live in. It is a special day for you and seemingly only you. Especially if you live without family or a community where others celebrate the holidays you do, these days can be extremely depressing.

At times like these one has to remember that holidays are only as special as you make them and if you are the type that has given into not celebrating them because of your expat status, this is the year to claim your holidays and re-energize them. An obvious way to do it is of course to invite others over and make an event out of it, but here are some more ideas for the not-so-social among us.

Take the day off

Seems easy enough, but too many expats work through holidays with the excuse that they are away from family or just had too much to do. Whether you actually ‘celebrate’ it or not – talking to the I’m-not-home-so-it’s-not-Christmas/Eid/Diwali people out there – just take the day off. You can figure out what to do with it later. Sleep the whole day if that’s what you need, but give yourself that time.

Buy something new to wear

It doesn’t matter if the only person who will see you is your doorman. Buy yourself new PJs, if that’s what you think you’ll be wearing on the day, but plan ahead and get at least one piece – shirt, necklace, belt, hair clip – that you can keep on you the entire day.

Clean and pamper

Sweep, mop, reorganize, de-clutter. Dump everything out of your closet, find that missing sock and pull out old clothes you haven’t worn since you were fifteen. Do your laundry, sort out the mail. Cover all these chores a day before the big day. Then work on yourself; take a long bath, bring out that deep body scrub and face mask.


Force it if you have to. Physiological changes can bring about emotional ones. So, start on a positive note – wake up with a smile. And then be that creepy person that smiles at strangers on the street. Greet everyone with warmth because, today, you won’t let anything get to you. You are in charge of your smile and you will keep it on. The whole day.

Write and post real cards

If you want to take this one step further – make your own cards, but if like most people you are the buying kind, buy a set of cards and send them around to people you are close to and to those you haven’t spoken to in a while, regardless of whether they are in the same city as you or not; send them a little ‘I’m thinking of you’ memento.

READ MORE from this issue of Global Living Magazine

Make a playlist

Pretty self-explanatory. Music is just another form of magic; use it to your advantage.

Write yourself a letter

Now put on that playlist and use pen and paper or email services such as futureme.org to email your future-self messages. Write about key moments that made you happy this year, key people in your life right now, hopes, dreams, regrets and secrets.


Maybe it’s the clothes you separated out while decluttering – give those away to a shelter. Maybe it’s the dessert you are about to make – share it with your neighbor. Maybe you have the whole day free – volunteer at the closest church/ orphanage/ animal shelter. Most holidays are about giving back; find ways to give back to strangers to your community and capitalize on the feel-good nature of the celebration.

Try something new

It could be anything from making a new dessert to trying a new shade of lipstick, or even making a new friend. Step outside your comfort zone and add a bit of nervousness and excitement to the everyday. If you fail, hey – it’s the holidays – and as important as it is to forgive others at this time, it is also vital to forgive yourself.

Create a time capsule

You know that stuff from the deep clean you did eight steps ago, where you found little things you didn’t need but couldn’t throw away: the recipe from the dessert you made; the stamps left over from posting cards; the letter you wrote – put all these in a box. Empty it out a year from now, smile at what you did the year before, and start all over again.

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[Image © Alena Ozerova, under license from ShutterStock]

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