People say the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year and I tend to agree. I love winter, Christmas, cold-weather eats, and my birthday is New Year’s Eve, so this time of year has a lot going for it. But it can also be a challenging time for those of us who are no longer “home” and have new traditions and places to embrace.
You don’t have to move abroad to feel the stresses and joys of the holiday season. Even a move within one’s own country can be rife with frustration, uneasiness, and sadness. On the flip side, a move can be a new start full of fun traditions and a childlike sense of holiday euphoria. It can go both ways… often simultaneously.
Whether you were the one who moved far away or someone close to you did, now’s the time to reconnect. Why the heck not?
Cynthia of Adventurings wrote about something I identify with in a recent post of hers. Being away for the holidays can actually get harder the longer you’ve been abroad. Maybe this isn’t the case if you never had big family celebrations with traditions you thoroughly enjoyed back home, but when it feels like the best Christmas is a “home” Christmas with those you grew up with, it’s hard to have the same experience when you’re so far from everything you know and love.
Cynthia writes, “At first, spending Christmas in Europe was an absolutely fantastic and magical thing and I couldn’t have been happier! The Christmas traditions here are beautiful and even more elaborate than I can remember from childhood. However at about year four, I noticed it started getting a little harder; perhaps the sheen had dulled ever so slightly.”
So how can you add some holiday cheer to your December? Reach out to those you love.
Do you have people in your life who are always there for you? That no matter what life changes you go through — moves, kids, relationships — nothing can get in the way of staying in touch and supporting one another? Are you that person for others?
If not, maybe it’s time to try to deepen connections that were once there.
Let me also point out that it’s a two-way street. The person who is “home” or who never moved away is not the one who should always be making the effort.
That’s not fair at all and gets old really fast. If the relationship is one-sided, it’s doomed. Effort flows both ways.
Relationships take effort to maintain and if you’re the only one keeping it alive, maybe it’s time to reconsider.
On the other hand, for those people who consistently make an effort for you, now’s the time to repay the favor even if you think they already know you care. And if you’ve lost touch or drifted apart? Let me encourage you to make the first move. I know there are a few extra Christmas cards I’m going to be writing this year. This post is a reminder to myself as well.
Without loved ones to laugh and connect with and help us go through life, what’s the point?
As someone who lives abroad, I get so much enjoyment out of picking up little gifts and cards for friends back home. It makes me just as happy to give as to receive and that’s something that wasn’t the case until I moved to France. It’s not that I never did little things for friends before moving abroad; it’s just that it makes me so happy to do these things now that we no longer see each other face to face all the time. The little acts of kindness mean so much more.
Sometimes people assume that our lives must be so much more interesting in our new home — whether in the our native country or abroad.
So interesting, in fact, that we’re too busy having fun to reconnect with those from our past. Or that we don’t want to. That’s rarely been the case in my experience.
While life in France can be a lot of fun, most of the time we have a routine just like we did at home and life abroad is just life (albeit with some added stress and hurdles to jump over).
We laugh, we get bored. We get lonely. We work, sleep, and run errands just like we did before, so hearing from someone we’ve lost touch with has the power to turn our day around. Again, this goes both ways.
So why not pick up the phone (or pen, or computer) and reconnect?
Nothing on my list below is complicated and that’s the point.
They’re common sense, no-brainer things that take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.
We’re all busy, but shouldn’t we make time for the people we care for?
Little ways to show a loved one far away that you care (during the holidays and always):
- Send a card or letter. We all love receiving mail, right? Shipping gifts is often expensive but a simple card can be just as meaningful. Cards are cheap to send. Keep it simple.
- Pick up the phone (or computer) to catch up. If voice calls in real time aren’t your thing, send an email.
- Leave a quick message on social media/FB message. A short hello is better than not saying anything. Let someone know you’re thinking of them.
- Support the person in their endeavor. Are they running a race for charity? Starting a new business? Just get a promotion at work? Let them know you see them and what they’re doing. Encourage them. Even if you aren’t able to donate or buy, share their project with your network and leave them an encouraging word of support. It baffles me when people see others doing something good and instead of leaving them a supportive word, they keep on scrolling by. It takes all of 5 seconds. We’re all human beings and we need each other! That goes double in this fast-paced social media world of double taps and likes.
- Send them an invite to your fête (even if you know they can’t come). Sometimes those of us far away get left off the invitation list because the host knows we’re unlikely to make the party. But feeling included goes a long way to know you are still on someone’s radar and still belong… even if you’re thousands of miles away.
How do you let loved ones far away know that you care?