A Newbie’s Guide to Spending Christmas Away From Home

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My first Christmas away from home was when I was 17. In France on an exchange year, I was living with a family who was proudly atheist and did not even have a Christmas tree in the house. We put presents underneath an IKEA floor lamp, perhaps ironically. Looking back, I love their rebellious outlook on this commercial and religiously-saturated holiday. But the younger me was worried about missing out on the traditions I had known with my whole life – and the people too.

For many of us, going home for the holidays just isn’t feasible. Be it expensive flights, or papers due in January, we just might find ourselves in this charming, sleepy town over the holidays. For the first time since I was 17, I’m not going back either. From experience – both old and new – here are a few tips for spending this time in your new home away from home.

You’ll be so full of glögg and Swedish Christmas coziness that you won’t even be able to imagine being anywhere else.

Find great people to spend it with. This is by far the most important. Find people who make you laugh, feel safe, or even just around whom you can wear an ugly Christmas sweater and old slippers all day without judgment. Especially those people. No matter how you actually end up celebrating the holidays, if you have great people to spend the time with, you’ll be so much less likely to feel sad. Or if you do, you’ll have the right network of people to help pick you back up again.

Try a few Swedish Christmas traditions. Trust me, there are plenty of them and they are super cozy. My personal favorite is Glögg — Sweden’s answer to mulled wine. You can buy it with or without alcohol and add a variety of spices while heating it up on the stove: cinnamon, dried orange slices, cloves, and more. Why not make some and tune into Kalle Anka (Donald Duck), the famous show airing on TV here each year on December 24th? You haven’t had a Swedish Christmas until you’ve done this. After that, try a Swedish “Julbord.” It’s literally a Christmas smorgasbord. You’ll be so full of glögg and Swedish Christmas coziness that you won’t even be able to imagine being anywhere else!

Above all, just stay busy and don’t forget to have fun. Holidays away from home don’t have to be sad. With the right traditions to try, and especially the right people, it’ll be a holiday to remember.