How to Make a Christmas when You’re Traveling

This Christmas in France is my first Christmas away from home, and while I’m really excited that my boyfriend is coming to visit…


We are a stunning couple.

…and that I’m going to Belgium…

Coming Soon

Haven’t been there yet, blurry photos from my cell phone still to come.

…and that I’m not going to have to battle airport security and crowds in the most merciless season of travel in the world…

Imagine hell. Then imagine that 5000 times worse.

Imagine hell. Then imagine that 5000 times worse.

…I am sad that I won’t be home with my family for Christmas.

So to compensate, I have become overly-obsessed with Christmas this year. Because I’m the only one who will make Christmas magical. I’m the one who has to get the tree and the gifts and the cookies. If I did nothing for Christmas, the day could pass like any other grey day, where all the shops and restaurants were inconveniently closed. And I don’t want that, because holidays are like travel in a lot of ways: they break the monotony of everyday life and make you see things in a different way.

It's not every day my little town looks like this.

It’s not every day my little town looks like this.

Or that I see a fireworks show in my front yard.

Or that I see a fireworks show in my front yard.

So here are a few inexpensive ways to make a little Christmas cheer.

1. Make stuff. I decorated my tree almost entirely from decorations that I made myself.

Things I made.

Things I made.

Stars that I folded from grocery store promotional ads and hung with string, ribbon bows, a garland from newspaper. The only things I bought were the lights and tree. My roommate also bought some chocolate ornaments and tinsel, but they were only a few euro. I also cut about a thousand paper snowflakes from printer paper and scattered them around the house.

2. The tree.

I made all my students admire it. They know I'm crazy.

I made all my students admire it. They know I’m crazy.

I bought a tree from outside the grocery store for 20 euro. Don’t want to buy a whole tree? Make a tree of books. Get a houseplant and stick a garland on it. Or make one on the wall with ribbon. Anything to make the place feel festive.

3. Desserts. Make the Christmas desserts you love from home. Finding a pumpkin to make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving was a pain in the ass, but I found a decent substitute. Same with cranberries for cranberry sauce and cranberry bread. I imagine it would be even more difficult in a non-western country, but with a little creativity you can make something familiar-ish.

4. Actually wrap presents. This makes a difference. If no one is getting you presents and you have no one to give them too, your life is really sad, and I’m sorry. Buy some for yourself and wrap them. You don’t have to buy wrapping paper–use the coupon pages from the grocery store, or newspaper, or the paper the bakery uses to wrap pastries. If you are like me, you have plenty of that lying around.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit B











5. Be nice to people. Smile at strangers. Be that weird foreigner who makes eye contact with the grocery store cashier. On a related note, get really excited about Christmas-y things. Because those lights and fireworks really are beautiful. And isn’t that the point of the holidays? Appreciating life?

False. This is the point.

False. This is the point.


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