Immigrants beating those Christmas blues

As Christmas 2023 has come and gone, it reminds me of Christmas blues and how it can be associated with financial stress, stress from the busyness that comes with the season, or grief from missing a loved one. We can combat the stress to some degree by trying to reduce our commitments and not get wrapped up in the materialism of the holiday, but the missing of a loved one is a different challenge.

When it comes to immigrants, Christmas can be one of the more depressing times if most, if not all your loved ones, are back in your home country. Personally, I do not struggle with depression over Christmas, and perhaps some of these learnings and reminders could help you next season if it’s a challenge you’re trying to overcome. Nothing replaces a physical hug and sitting around a table together, but one can make the best of your circumstances and opportunities, nevertheless.

One of the more obvious solutions is to take full advantage of technology with the use of tools like FaceTime or WhatsApp video calls. For our family, we have the challenge of extreme time differences and that requires that one plans connection time, ahead of time. Family back home will likely be busy too and to avoid disappointment of missing each other because of opposing sleeping hours or commitments, be sure to communicate well in advance. If you can set up an exact day and time, that’s ideal, but if that is stressful, give yourselves a reasonable window. With my relatives, we like to speak on Christmas Eve, once everyone in South Africa has woken up on their Christmas morning. Scheduling helps manage expectations, avoid overlapping of calls and the pressure of inconveniencing anyone by calling at a less than ideal moment.

The next suggestion is one that certainly has been great for my family, which is embracing our new country’s traditions. Having moved from the Southern Hemisphere, it was truly delightful to experience a winter’s Christmas where much of the typical Christmas décor fits the environment, along with Christmas sweaters and real Christmas trees. I sought out activities in our city on local Facebook chat groups and ads, such as where the best neighbourhood Christmas lights are located, Christmas markets and fun events.

Following on from there, make your own new traditions so that you have something to look forward to each year. Our family enjoys cutting down our own Christmas tree or making an event of picking a tree from one of many a Christmas tree farm or nursery, something we could not do in South Africa. I make homemade hot chocolate and sugar cookies and we walk and drive around neighbourhoods admiring splendid light displays. Thankfully our family is not an infamously divided household of Mariah Carey versus Michael Bublé, and we enjoy listening to Christmas carols while on drives or doing activities at home, like decorating a Gingerbread house. We love to attend a Church service and find the balance of being sociable and enjoying time bonding as a family alone.

As I mentioned in a previous post about adopting a grandparent, this is a wonderful way to build new relationships and give back by hosting new friends for a meal or potluck. Maybe it looks like inviting single loners, elderly, or newcomers. It doesn’t need to be a costly affair if everyone brings one dish to share and does a cheap Secret Santa type of gift exchange. Volunteering is also a wonderful way to bring joy to others and be blessed with the joy that you experience in return. If you are busy enjoying your family and friends, while doing traditions that you have chosen for yourself, you are less likely to feel like you’re missing out on the fun being had by relatives back home.

What new traditions have you incorporated? I would love to hear! Apart from what I’ve already mentioned, we make and enjoy food and drink that incorporates a bit of our old home and our new home. Some family friends of ours started a new tradition of caroling in their neighbourhood and had us join them this Christmas. A fun and silly one our family has is watching a Christmas movie and sleeping on mattresses in the living room on Christmas Eve.

With all this said, I like to remind myself that all these things are temporal happiness and if I do not want Christmas blues or post Christmas blues, I need to acknowledge that and know where my joy should come from, which for me is not from earthly things or experiences. If you celebrate Christmas, what is your reason for the season?

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