Holidays Away From Home
by Carol Penn-Romine
Have you ever spent a major holiday away from your family and friends because of job, school or some other circumstance?
You don’t have to be one of those types who get all weepy over the phone company ads on television to appreciate the deep need all humans have to make a connection with others, especially at holiday time. Being separated from friends and relations and the familiarity of tradition during the holidays can be a misery, even for the most optimistic among us.
If you find yourself facing the prospect of being away from home during a holiday, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah or some other special season, work to make your experience as positive as possible. You may even succeed in creating a holiday for yourself that will reward you with fond memories for the rest of your life.
Following are some suggestions for making the most of being away from home during special seasons. View the situation positively, and try as many of these as you can to treat yourself to a unique holiday, one that you probably never would have experienced were you not forced to spend that season away from home.
Do volunteer work.
You don’t have to be a resident of a city to perform volunteer service there, nor does volunteering require any special talent.
Agencies in many cities prepare special Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for the indigent and homeless. Check the phonebook to see if there are any charitable agencies you may contact regarding volunteering for holiday service, or phone a local church or ask your concierge for a recommendation.
Reaching out to others in need is important year round, but during the holidays it is even more crucial. Homeless and abuse shelters, nursing homes, hospitals and children’s homes all need volunteer help and welcome it especially during the holidays, when most people are busy with their own celebrations.
Those you serve will be grateful for your time and attention, and you in turn will gain the benefit of knowing you have done something truly important on a special day. Holding the hand of someone’s grandmother, even if she isn’t your own, is an experience you no doubt will remember in the years to come.
When we first moved from Memphis to Los Angeles, just weeks before the holidays, my husband and I knew we had to do something besides moping around, feeling sorry for ourselves and missing our families and friends. So we volunteered to feed the homeless on Christmas Day. We came away from that experience knowing there was nothing more valuable we could have done. Over the last few years, we have spent several Thanksgivings and Christmases volunteering, and those days are probably the holidays we remember best.
Go to church or a synagogue or to some service that has significance to your particular faith.
The familiarity of the worship experience, even if you’re in a different city or country, and in a different worship setting, can help ease the loneliness. Most likely at least some of the songs sung will be the same ones you sing at home, and the traditions will be similar to your own as well. And if not, then marvel in the differences! After all, how many people do you know who have this kind of opportunity?
There may be a special meal following the service, or you might end up receiving an invitation to join others in their own celebrations. So stay open to the possibilities presented during informal coffee time before or after the service.
Bite the bullet, and place those calls.
Make all the phone calls your lonely little heart desires. Call your spouse or significant other, and your children and parents, of course, but also call your brothers and sisters, your friends and anyone else you enjoy talking to. They would appreciate hearing from you and finding out how you’re celebrating the holiday. (Truth be told, they might even be a little envious!)
Check the newspapers for special holiday events.
It may be music or theatre or something else, but go to at least one or two holiday offerings. There may be a parade or festival you can attend. How do the observances in the town you’re visiting differ from the ones with which you are familiar? You get to know a place better when you have observed or participated in its special events. You may even discover a practice you find so moving or significant that you’ll decide to incorporate it into your own celebration at home.
You might simply take advantage of where you're visiting to do something no one else back home can do on that day. After we fed the homeless on our first Christmas in Los Angeles, we did something we knew none of our family and friends could do on Christmas Day in Tennessee--we went to the beach! We had it almost exclusively to ourselves. No one pressed us to eat one more helping of anything, and no one asked us when we were going to have kids. It was just us and the lifeguards wearing their red swimsuits and their Santa hats!
Shop for seasonal decorations to add to your own collection.
If you are visiting a different region of the country or in a different country altogether, you'll have access to special items you can't find where you live. Most likely you’ll be the only one with such distinctive ornaments back home, and you’ll have interesting stories to go with them.
Be sure to take photographs of those events to show others when you get back. You’ve been off on an adventure, so share it!