The holidays are supposed to be a time for joy, peace on earth, and goodwill towards men, however it can also be a time of stress/anxiety for many. Being abroad for the holidays is difficult, but on the bright side, can also present new opportunities to create new memories with friends. Although it can be tough, for me it was important to maintain a positive outlook in order to not become too blue around the holidays.
The first major holiday that I’d ever spent away from home was Christmas 2014. In Korea, everyone works on Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve, and has Christmas day, and New Year’s day off. Korea is historically a Buddhist nation that follows the Lunar calendar, so western holidays like Christmas are fairly new. In Korea, Christmas isn’t much of a family holiday, but a dating holiday like Valentine’s day, and is heavily commercialized. This, as you can imagine, was quite the shocker, (the dating part)! I decided that I wanted to be out, and be busy on that day. I went to see a movie with a friend, met up with more friends for dinner afterwards, had dessert, and enjoyed being with my friends. I spent the majority of the day not at my apartment, and out with friends.
Korea is 14 hours ahead of the US eastern standard time during the winter, so I was able to Skype with my family for a bit once I went home for the night. I know of some people who would spend hours talking to their family on Christmas, which is completely fine if that’s what helps, but that would’ve been too sad for me to do. I spent two more Christmases in Korea, and they were all spent with a different group of friends each year. Foreigners come and go often in Korea, so I was constantly meeting new people, but keeping busy was how I was able to get through Christmas.
I haven’t been much of a New Year’s person since my early 20’s, so not being home for that one wasn’t much of a big deal to me at all. New Year’s Eve can give me a bit of anxiety sometimes, and I usually just want it to be over. The first NYE I spent in Korea, I stayed out past midnight with friends, the year after I had dinner with two friends, and went to bed around 10:30 during my last New Year’s Eve in Korea. So, as you can clearly see, I was more than OK because this holiday is one that I in all honesty haven’t really celebrated much.
Easter is not celebrated at all in Korea, so it was hard to remember that it was Easter season. Church was the only place that I know of that had Easter celebrations. The same obviously goes for American Thanksgiving. I sometimes forgot that it was Thanksgiving, until someone would remind me. In Korea, it was just another day. Since Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, foreigners usually held celebrations on the weekend.
Many folks this year won’t be able to be with their families this holiday season. As someone who has spent a few years away from home, I’d like to offer you a few simple things to do that may help. My advice to you is to keep in touch with family, do something you enjoy that reminds you of the holiday. Whether it be baking cookies, watching a certain movie, try doing something that makes you feel connected. Remember, this period in time will not last forever!