Christmas is the only annual event where all your extended family comes together for a good ol’ three-day binge. It’s the holiday when Uncle Henry gets a bit offensive and when Auntie Tamara has a smidge too much sherry and overshares awkward family secrets. It’s also the time of year where, no matter how old you are, you instantly revert to your eight-year-old self, arguing petulantly with siblings and spending most of the afternoon sulking in front of the TV.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. According to trends agency Foresight Factory, there’s a spike during the holiday season in social media mentions of going abroad. It goes to show that despite the hype, many people would like to leave the family behind at Christmas — so we spoke to two people who’ve spent Christmases away from home to find out why you should do it, too.
1. You Get To Experience Other Traditions
Kelsie is 30, she’s from London, and she’s lived in Australia for over seven years. Although spending the holidays away from family can be challenging, she says there are plenty of upsides.
“If you live abroad, you might get a sympathy-invite to someone else’s family Christmas,” Kelsie says. “That’s good because you see that other people’s families are also dysfunctional so you can be a bit more tolerant of your own. But you also see other people’s traditions — and they treat you like a special guest.”
2. You Get A New Perspective
Since living in Australia, Kelsie now sees Christmas in an entirely different light. “I often go to Queensland to spend Christmas with my boyfriend’s family. It’s weird because it’s boiling hot, they eat fruit salad for breakfast and we go for walks on the beach in the morning.”
That said, Kelsie still maintains a couple of traditions from the UK. “I tried to do the whole ‘Santa’s been here’ thing for my boyfriend’s niece. It felt weird – I was actually sweating as I made these fake snow footprints on the floor. Afterward, his niece asked, ‘What’s snow?’ But it was still fun.” Kelsie said it’s also strange to see fairy lights hung up when their twinkle is drowned out by the sun, but she thinks it’s a nice touch anyway.
3. You Get To Spend Christmas With Friends
Ellen is 26, she’s from Australia and has lived in Europe for over four years. One of her first Christmases away from family was in London where she had Friends Christmas, or Friendsmas. “All my friends got together and we had a pub lunch,” Ellen said, “That was super fun because we were all away from our families, so we all made an effort to make it cozy. We did a little Secret Santa and had mimosas with pancakes. In the afternoon, we watched Disney films and Christmas movies – it was very cute.”
Kelsie loves Friendsmas because it lacks the emotional baggage of spending Christmas with family. “It’s great because you’re celebrating with your mates and you all have something in common — you’re all away from home — it’s a very different experience. Everyone brings a dish; everyone makes an effort, so it feels communal.”
Kelsie’s Friends Christmases always include a pub quiz and secret Santa. “I also make sure I speak with my family that day,” she said. “I send them gifts and we Skype, so I still feel connected.”
So is Friendsmas more fun than an average family Christmas? “I feel a bit guilty saying that it’s better than being at home,” Kelsie said. “Imagine if my mum heard that.”
4. Traveling Over The Holidays Is A Unique Experience
If you choose to travel over Christmas to warmer climates, you’ll have an entirely new holiday experience. For example, hostels all around the world have their own special Christmas traditions and depending on what country you’re in, you’ll find fascinating little nooks of travelers.
“One year we went to Japan,” Kelsie said, “And the tradition there is that expats go to KFC.” Kelsie noted that when you travel over the holidays, people go out of their way to make the day special, which makes your experience even more of a novelty.
5. There’s No Post-Presents Slump
At 3 p.m., after the present-opening and the meal-hype, what are we left with? A food coma, charades and nowhere to go.
“I think it’s universal that Christmas afternoon is the most boring time of year,” Ellen said. “There’s nothing to do, you’re full and a bit drunk, and the initial joy of Christmas Day has worn off. I’ve genuinely never been more bored in my life than the afternoon of Christmas Day, but I haven’t experienced that since I’ve been away.”
If you’ve never tried it, getting away over Christmas can give you a new perspective, experience new cultures and give you a welcome break from Uncle Henry’s offensive charade gestures.