The Joys of Celebrating Christmas in a Foreign Culture

Rope hammock with Santa's hat on beach, closeup. Christmas vacation

25th December – A Magical Day

Wherever you are in the world, on December 25th, you can feel Christmas in the air. You might be wrapped up in a blanket with a hot chocolate filled with whipped cream, watching Home Alone in the UK, or maybe you’ve decided to have a few cocktails and soak up the sun in the Bahamas. When I went on holiday to Dubai in December 2020, the hotels were beautifully decorated with Christmas trees and lights and the restaurants would almost always be playing a Christmas jingle. It was hard to ignore the celebrations of Christmas in Dubai. While the UAE is predominantly a Muslim region, other religious festivals are also celebrated. Dubai is now considered a multi-cultural city and has embraced the bright lights and fun of Christmas with open arms. It’s impossible to escape that festive feeling, wherever we are in the world…

Who will I celebrate the Christmas holidays with if I’m abroad and away from family?

While celebrating the Christmas holidays abroad may not be exactly like doing so at home, it can certainly still be special and memorable. It’s true, the downside is not being able to see family at the most precious time of year, but why not celebrate with the new friends that you’ve made? A phrase that us Brits often like to use is ‘the more, the merrier’ and at Christmas, the more people that are able to gather together to celebrate, the happier the occasion becomes! Spending time with others is the best way to share the Christmas spirit. It gives you a unique opportunity to learn about the culture at your new location but also, it gives you the chance to teach your new friends what Christmas really means to you. Christmas manifests itself differently across families – some save their stomachs all day for a big, traditional roast dinner, others go to their grandparents’ house before meeting up for church to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and some just like a good old movie marathon without any distractions. But no matter what we choose to do to fill our Christmas, we all choose to spend the day with the people who matter the most to us.

How do I send my family gifts back home for Christmas?

One of the best things since sliced bread is being able to send gifts back home for Christmas. We can shop online or get items shipped off at our nearest post office – either way, it’s good to share the love of this time of year. And if you’re last minute like I am, why not send them an e-gift card for their favourite shop or Amazon? (There’s still time, just get that all-important email address!)

What am I to eat when celebrating Christmas abroad 2021?

In the UK on Christmas day, we often love to indulge in a traditional Christmas dinner that consists of a roast turkey, roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, Brussel sprouts, stuffing and gallons of gravy! For as long as I can remember, this has always been the highlight of my day. You’re allowed to eat an abundance of food on Christmas day without feeling any guilt. The new year follows only a few short days later, so what’s the problem? ‘New year, new me’ can begin when the time is right, but for now, let’s eat!

What is the traditional Christmas meal where you are from? In Jamaica, it’s typical to start the day with the national dish – ackee and saltfish for breakfast, followed by rice and peas and curried goat meat for dinner. In Czech Republic, celebrations begin on Christmas Eve, as they do in Portugal, Germany, Sweden and many more countries. In Czech Republic it’s common to fast during the day on December 24th – legend has it that if you do not cheat during fasting, you will see a golden pig in the evening! The dinner has three meals. First is a thin wafer with honey, then a soup – Kapustnica (cabbage soup), and the main is traditionally potato salad with fish. In contrast, in Japan, KFC plays a big part on Christmas Day!

If you’re not keen on eating the traditional meal where you are currently based, why not head down to a local supermarket, and buy some ingredients that remind you of a tasty dish you would eat whilst spending Christmas with your family back home? Christmas is all about feeling good, and if it takes a few hours in the kitchen making Krustenbraten (German dish that consists of roast pork with a crispy rind) then so be it! Your taste buds deserve to be delighted!

There are so many reasons why you should feel excited about celebrating Christmas in a foreign culture, from the food to the gifts, the decorations to the people. Christmas is one of the most special times of the year where we get to feel real magic in the air. Wherever you may be spending Christmas this year, we hope that you’re truly spoilt – we also wish you a very happy new year!

Follow us on our new Instagram so that we can see exactly how you celebrate the big day!

The Dialogue Team X

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