Christmas is a special time for any country which celebrates Christmas. Even so, not all countries celebrate Christmas at the same time or in the same way. So, if you plan on celebrating Christmas in a foreign country, leave your own Christmas traditions behind and get ready to share in the traditions of that foreign country. Here are some tips for making your Christmas event in a foreign country a special time for all:
Join in on the foreign customs. Each country has its own way of decorating, so ask how you can help decorate for the upcoming holiday. According to christmas-day.org, families in Africa decorate for Christmas using pine branches and bells. Don’t criticize or try to push your usual decorating custom onto the country in which you visit. Enjoy the difference and learn the reason behind such customs.
Stay quiet about your own customs. If someone asks you about your own customs, tell them about your own personal customs, not the customs of your home country. If you talk too much about the customs of your own country, you run the risk of your foreign friends believing you find yourself superior to them. If someone asks, share some personal customs. If nobody asks, keep quiet.
Dress as the foreigners dress. Visiting another country is fun because you get to learn about others who live differently than you. Join in on the way these people live by dressing as they do. You really don’t need your own style of dress to set you apart. Your accent alone will do this. Show the locals that you embrace their culture and ask them to help you dress for the Christmas occasion. In the end, your outfit can serve as a souvenir.
Learn to cook the local food. Each culture offers different food, and the joy of eating never becomes boring. So, take to the kitchen and actually learn how to make some of the delicacies of the country in which you visit. Make sure that you don’t criticize what/how the local people eat. Remember, each country eats what they have available. Just enjoy the food differences. You won’t be able to get more authentic food than in that particular country.
Educate yourself on gift giving. Some countries refrain from gift giving and focus on the warm friendship among the people. Still, some countries give only food gifts (or other homemade gifts from the heart) at Christmas. So, forget about your expensive gift-giving habit and soak up the family warmth of another country. You’ll be more relaxed for it, and you’ll likely have more money in your wallet because of it.
Enjoy the music. Chances are that you won’t hear the traditional Santa Claus music that you hear around the United States. If you visit Jamaica, you’ll likely hear Reggae music. Remember, though, you are experiencing Christmas in another country, another culture. So, embrace the people and all they have to offer and learn what Christmas is all about: loving one another.
Become a local. Try not to deliberately stand out. Do your best to become a local for the duration of your visit, particularly during the Christmas celebration. Dress like the locals, eat like the locals, and give gifts like the locals. You’ll come home with the fantastic memory of living another life for awhile. Each Christmas after your return, try to honor the people who embraced you by including one of their Christmas customs into your Christmas celebration.
Strive to bond. It’s easy to sit back and snarl at the unfamiliar customs of another country and declare your own traditions superior. Isn’t change and difference why you wanted to visit a foreign country, though? This means you need to get up and learn all that you can about Christmas in the foreign country in which you visit. If you’re not lucky enough to hook up with a local family, talk with some of the sales staff in the nearby shops about local customs.
Share in the cost. Traveling abroad is expensive, but then it is also expensive for the locals to extend their hospitality. Truly become a part of the Christmas celebration by budgeting in enough money to help pay for the holiday materials. Even if the locals do not exchange gifts, they surely could use help with buying the supplies for the Christmas meal. If the locals refuse to let you contribute money, at least contribute time in helping with preparations/clean up.
Bring home part of your foreign Christmas. Don’t waste your money on commercialized souvenirs from the foreign country in which you visit. Bring home a souvenir that means something. If you make a gift for a local, make yourself the same thing, so this duplicate gift can provide a material bond between the two of you. If you have a material item that a local admires, trade the local for something that you can bring home as a reminder of your visit.