The Flip-Side of Not Being Home for the Holidays

By Mark Giebink | TeachBeyond Global Member Care Director

(The following was written for missionaries who are experiencing Christmas in another country and culture.)

It’s very easy, and natural, to become frustrated and even depressed by all you are missing by not being with extended family over the holidays. It’s okay, even important, to acknowledge and grieve that. But let’s look at the flip-side: what are potential good things about being “away from home?”

1. New experiences
If we’re honest, many of us ‘glamorize’ our family holiday traditions. Viewed realistically, they are short, sometimes awkward, and may even be borderline boring. Some family members may secretly wish they were in your shoes. You get to experience Christmas with “new eyes.” Imagine Christmas in Europe, or a tropical climate. Explore some of the local holiday traditions – food, festivals, etc. If you are in a location that does not celebrate Christmas, you have the opportunity to create a Christmas experience with and for others.

2. A window into your host-culture
This is a great time to keep a “learner posture.” Many cultures have special food, songs, dances and other traditions associated with Christmas or New Year’s. Staying provides you another chance to soak in your host culture. Learn some new words and phrases, try a new recipe or menu item.

3. Simplicity
A common complaint, at least in American culture, is how commercialized Christmas has become. For some this will be the perfect time to simplify – to keep the season pure and simple. Make a church service or sharing time with friends the focal point of your celebrations.

4. Opportunity to start new traditions
You have a clean slate, a blank canvas. How do you want to spend your holiday season? You may want to keep some things from your family’s tradition, but add some new, or start over.

5. you’re not the only one – let’s get together
If you feel alone, just know that others do too. So, be brave and ask about getting together with someone for a meal, or movie, or outing! Adopt a family, or families–adopt someone single to join your family for the holiday.

6. A needed break
After a long several months of adjusting to a new school culture, some weeks off may provide an ideal break to rest and renew. Even if you return to finish the semester, most at least get at least a short break from classes. It might be a nice time to do some day trips to local attractions or a weekend away. Save a favorite Netflix series to watch, or a new novel to read. Sleep in. Do some baking (and share with others). Visit a museum. Relax.

7. An act of worship
It may still be a challenge being away from family and familiar, but you can choose to give this challenging time to God as an act of worship. King David said he would not offer to God something that cost him nothing. God sees you! He cares. He accepts your sacrifice as an offering of love.