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by Annemarie de Villiers
A recent visit to David Jones and the sight of all of the tree decorations and nativity scene character shocked me into the realization that the madness of December is once again just around the corner. Without a passing thought many of us regard Christmas as a time for family, friends and happy, carefree days to relax and recuperate after a stressful year.
To many expats however, this is one of the loneliest times of the year. Being away from loved ones and all of the traditions that surrounds Christmas, especially for first timers, can be extremely isolating. I hope my list of suggestions will help a few newbies to be happy this Christmas time.
Plan ahead
One of the most important components to having a successful and fun Christmas season abroad is to be organized and to plan ahead. December is an extremely busy time for holidayresorts, hotels, restaurants, harbour cruises, etc. If you are planning to go away or do something which involves reserving a spot / table / room, be sure to do so ASAP as you will run out of options. Christmas holiday is celebratedthrough out the world which means you should bargain on competing with overseas visitors as well as locals for a coveted spot.

Stay busy

Forget about doing something on the spur of the moment around Christmas time. Plan well in advance what you will be doing on the day or the period between Christmas and New Year. The combination of not having specific plans and everything being booked out often results in theever depressing stuck-at-home Christmas experience. Havingsaid that staying at home is obviously always an option. If going with this one, I would suggest inviting friends over for a meal, giving you something to look forward to and keeping your minds off family and friends elsewhere. Also be sure to organize this sooner than later becasue people in Australia tend to have their Christmas planned far in advance, if you want to be included start organizing soon!!

When in Rome

Another option of something to do during the Christmas period is to speak to the locals in your area. In some areas people enjoy having a Barbie in the local park/on the beach, allowing all of the children to get out for a day of fun and sun away from home. Your neighbours, work colleagues or friends may know of other activities that take place during the holiday season or on Christmas day specifically, that are worth yourconsideration. Sydney always has lots on in Darling Harbour during the festive season, while many the suburbs have Carols by Candlelight and firework displays worth attending.

Time for something new

Your first Christmas away from relatives and friends is often the ideal time to start your own traditions. Avoid reminding yourself of how much you miss everyone by placing lights on the trees outside instead of the traditional ol' Christmas tree. Change your routine by having Santa deliver things out on the back porch instead of under the tree and eat prawns off the Barbie with chips and salad instead of the age old Turkey and gravy. Start your own traditions; break with the old, think of everyone who would love to be where you are right now! Preparing in advance will ensure you ending up with the preferred crowd on the day. Try to only phone friends and family in South Africa at the end of your day, thereby limiting the potential of sad sentiments and emotions ruining too much of your day.

Hope you all have a good one!

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Posted by Annemarie de Villiers
24 Nov 2007

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