A Waygook Christmas: How to survive the holidays away from home

Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. I’ll be posting a new ESL related article on my blog on the 5th of every month. Check back for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please get in touch with me by commenting, and I’ll let you know how you can start participating! 

The prompt for this month’s blog carnival is to write about an experience I’ve had while travelling that I will always remember.  As much as I wish I could tell a ridiculously funny crazy story about something that happened to me while travelling, nothing has stuck out much in my mind to write about.  So, I want to tell you about a very special day I had last year.  It was my first Christmas away from home, and as any person living abroad probably knows, spending holidays away from friends, family, and traditions can be pretty tough.  Luckily, it ended up being one the best days I’ve had while living over here.  I don’t think I ever wrote about it in my blog, so I figured is was a good time to share it!

It started a few weeks before Christmas.  I was trying to throw together some sort of gift exchange for my friends in my town.  As we were discussing different options, I brought up the idea of doing a “White Elephant” gift exchange.  Many of my friends had never heard of this, so I thought it would be really fun.  I decided to host it at my house.  The night before (Christmas Eve) I brought a friend to Costco, and we bought tons of food for Christmas dinner: 4 whole cooked chickens, cheese, bread, sausages, bacon, chips&salsa, and tons more.  Everyone pitched in money, and we had more than enough food.  People also brought food to share…salad, cookies, mashed potatoes, and of course, tons of beer.

xmas 1

When everyone had arrived we were pretty cramped.  I think we probably had about 25 people crammed into my tiny apartment.  We ate a lot, and then played games.  First up was the “White Elephant” gift exchange.  There were a lot of good gifts, and even more hilarious random gifts.




After the gift exchange we sat around eating more, talking, and played many drinking games and card games.  Some people even found spots to lie down to take a nap.  The games brought out a lot of competitiveness, and pretty soon there was a lot of bickering between people.  It felt just how Christmas used to be with my many cousins growing up!



I was surprised how long the party lasted. Nobody wanted to go home and be alone on Christmas, so most people stuck around until pretty late at night.  It ended up being so much better than anything I could have imagined.  I felt really lucky to be able to experience Christmas away from home with such a great group of people.  I had so much fun laughing the entire day that there was no time to be homesick at all.  This is definitely an experience I will never forget.  I’m looking forward to hosting it again this year, and people have already started asking me if we can do it again.

So, if you are living abroad and are worried about spending the holidays away from friends and family, I highly recommend surrounding yourself with good people, familiar food, and lots of laughs.  It might even be better than your own family Christmas! (Just kidding…Kind of!  To my family members reading this post…You know I love and miss you all!)

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4 Responses to A Waygook Christmas: How to survive the holidays away from home

  1. Pingback: Reach to Teach Blog Carnival : Story Time Edition | Internationally In Debt

  2. shayzach says:

    We had a very similar experience. Last year’s Christmas was also our first holiday season away from home. I remember waking up and wanting to cry. After skyping my family, I felt happier, but was still very jealous to be missing out. However, after ice-skating, doing a white elephant exchange and having a delicious potluck with a bunch of our friends, the day ended on a much happier note. Friends, especially those which are going through the same feelings of homesickness, have been the key to making living abroad enjoyable. Thanks for sharing!

  3. deanbarnes86 says:

    Last Christmas was my first Christmas away from home, and i thought it was going to be tough! I had many preconceived ideas about how hard it would be. However, it turns out that being one of six ambitiously creative gay guys in a household at Christmas really has its perks! Attention to detail is in full force and creativity progressing at a dangerous rate. We decorated the house, decorated a tree, stocked it with gifts, oh and did I mention we hosted a dinner for 70 (that is not a joke) 70 expats in Taiwan. Apparently this was a small turn out to the usual suspects! This was all cooked by one guy who refused help, which totally reminded me of my mother in the kitchen! It felt like family, it felt like home.
    I think being away from home for Christmas can really bring expats together to create that family vibe that could otherwise be missing.
    I do have 1 question though, what is a white elephant? I’m British so I haven’t come across this yet.

    • vrlonghorn says:

      White elephant is a gift exchange party game where each participant brings 1 wrapped gift (can be funny, serious, new, or something you have at home and don’t want anymore, anything). All the gifts are placed in a pile, and each person draws a number depending on how many people brought a gift. The first person can pick any gift and unwrap it. The second person can either steal that gift, or choose a new one to unwrap. It keeps going on like this. Once a gift has been stolen 3 times it is “locked in” and can no longer be stolen. It’s really fun! 🙂

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