How to make the most of Christmas when you’re away from home
Schedule calls with loved ones, stay in contact and make the festive season different from the usual traditions, says psychologist
Alexandra Furbee will be spending Christmas in Ireland with her partner, but says she will miss spending the time with her parents in Florida.
Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together. As we all know, this year is like no other and there are countless families here and around the world, who will not get to see their loved ones over the festive season. And this, on top of the extraordinarily stressful year we have all had, can take its toll.
Psychologist Peadar Maxwell says the key to making the most of this unusual Christmas is to make some plans.
“It’s difficult to not be with those you love at Christmas but there are things you can do to make it a bit easier,” he says. “Find out who will be around and what the schedule will be and try to make it as different as possible to your usual tradition. Make plans to contact people at a certain time as if not, they may not be available.
“Make a plan to be on screen together, even have your dinner or a toast together. Or try watching the same film at the same time and having a chat or video call about it or being on screen together for the opening of presents. Plan your Happy Christmas greetings so that you are all in a comfortable place to chat and exchange greetings because it could be upsetting or hurtful if you perceive that your loved ones are busy or uninterested when in fact they are just trying to not burn the meal. So decide on a time that works for you all.”
The Wexford-based expert says if being alone is difficult then make plans to be with others in the same situation or if this is not possible, make alternative arrangements. “Maybe being on your own for Christmas will be a once off for you, if so, make the most of it by hosting a dinner or getting out and volunteering in a way which helps others at a shelter or hospital,” he advises. “Or if the aloneness is the issue, resign yourself to a quiet day and relax. But don’t forget to call home as family will miss you too.”
So she decided to stay – and is very positive about her adopted home but still misses home, particularly her family. “The people are so nice and extremely welcoming and coming from America, the medical care is extremely affordable,” she says. “Travel to mainland Europe is so affordable too which I love. But I grew up in Florida, so my first winter here was tough and I do miss my family. I am an only child, so I miss my mom and dad a lot.”
This is her second Christmas in Ireland, while she will enjoy the busyness of the day here, she will feel lonely for her parents.
“Christmas in Ireland will be with my boyfriend’s family who live close by so we will go to their house for the festivities,” she says. “I am used to a very small Christmas but my partner is one of five kids, so it is much busier than I am used to. And we are starting a new tradition of Christmas bingo which I am so looking forward to. But I will miss spending time with my parents. My mom always decorates the house to an extreme for the holidays and I love it.
“My mom and dad already know this, but I wish I could be there with them and if it were not for Covid, I would be home. Hopefully I can make it back soon because I miss them so much. But I hope they have a great Christmas even though it is not what they are used to or how any of us planned to celebrate – and here’s hoping that Christmas 2021 will be spent together.”
Rio de Janeiro
Having been in South America for five years, Julian Cornelius is living in Arpoador (between Ipanema and Copacabana) in Rio de Janeiro with his wife Adriana and their daughter Luana. The solicitor works as a consultant in market/legal for a leading law firm and is really enjoying the lifestyle.
He is considering returning to live in Ireland in the future and, prior to the pandemic, was planning to come home for Christmas. But this has been postponed and, while he will enjoy the warm weather and the Brazilian festivities, he will certainly miss family and friends.
“Christmas here is very hot as it’s in the middle of summer, so packed beaches, air conditioning, and surfing Santa are quite different to what I was used to in Ireland,” he says. “It’s nice but doesn’t feel much like Christmas. And this year I’ll definitely miss family a lot as it has been a long time since I was home and saw everyone. I will also miss seeing friends and going for a few pints to catch up with everyone and kicking a ball around with my nephew.
“We hope to come home for Easter and in the meantime I would like to say to my family that I love them loads and as soon as things get better we can make new plans.”
Peadar Maxwell says for those who are missing out on having a loved one come home for Christmas, it’s good to remember that it could be difficult for them too, so take the time to help them plan an alternative day.
“Gently suggest they plan to make the best of the situation and make an agreed time to video call or chat – in fact, you may need to have multiple mini-calls throughout the important days of Christmas,” he says. “Send them something in advance to open on the day if possible and an old-fashioned Irish Christmas card.
“And whether your loved one is sad to not be at home or is having the craic somewhere exciting, make sure to tell them that you love them and that you miss them.”