Celebrating the Holidays Away from Home
by Maureen Collins
Customs in different places can vary surrounding holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. As we travel in foreign lands, consider a few ways to help make the holidays more enjoyable.
First of all, do you want to bring your own traditions with you to where you will be located for the holidays? Here are a few ideas on how to have some of your customs present with you when in faraway lands:
- Have family or friends send you some of your favorite foods for the holidays. Hotels and hostels will accept mail for visitors if you pre-warn them to hold it for you. You can also arrange with the local post office or American Express office to have things delivered and held for you there. They will provide the appropriate mailing address to give to your friends and family. Make sure the foods are well-packaged or they may be rejected at the border.
- If you play an instrument, search out a local music or pawn shop and rent or purchase cheaply the musical instrument of your choice. Adding traditional music to any holiday celebration is a wonderful way to share the ideals of those beliefs. It often initiates dance or singing which promotes the idea of community and sharing.
- Use locally found objects to modify your traditional props of the season. For example, a piece of driftwood or some shells can hold candles to create your menorah. Or how about a locally made silk handbag for a Christmas “stocking”? One of my favorites was fake snow sprayed on a palm tree, with unique local paper and wood crafts hung from the leaves.
- Check out the festivities at international hotels catering to foreign needs. They often offer activities and events to hotel guests and non-guests alike.
Another, really fun way to enjoy the holidays is to immerse yourself in the local customs and celebrations. This can be somewhat tricky though as they can vary by date, time, location and participation. Here are a few ideas to help you tap into the local traditions:
- Many holidays center around religious beliefs so the local places of worship are a wonderful place to start not only to learn what the traditions are but what the beliefs are behind the traditions.
- In many cultures, the concept of a “town square” is the centre for all celebrations. Ask the local people around the town square what will be happening and when.
- Look to the children! Ask at a local school what are the children doing for crafts and performances. Find out what the children’s beliefs are and how they celebrate those beliefs.
- Seek out the embassy or consulate of your home country and ask for information on local customs and regulations surrounding these customs. Their staff are likely familiar with both your beliefs and those of the local culture.
- Check the tourism office of places on your itinerary for local calendars. Find out what days are special locally, and what places really stand out as special spots for celebrations. Be sure to investigate what’s open and what’s closed, and for how long.
December holidays around the world are some of the most diverse representations of different cultures and belief systems. No matter what your beliefs are, one thing that is common to all holidays is the caring and sharing of humanity. However and wherever you celebrate the holidays, may you find yourself surrounded with a sense of community, love, respect and faith.
Peace on Earth!