Do your emotions go into a tailspin when 25 December gets closer? Do you countdown to Christmas – just to get it over with?
If that’s the case, alternative Christmas holidays – or different ways of spending Christmas – are made for you.
There may be plenty of reasons for your dislike of the season: perhaps there are family issues, or you may hate the commercial side of Christmas. Whatever the cause, if Christmas feels like a hurdle you have to jump over, a traditional tree/turkey/prezzies combo simply isn’t going to cut it for you.
Luckily, it’s not too hard to find a different way to spend Christmas.
I have wonderful memories of Christmases spent with my parents, who are no longer alive, and reliving those scenes opens up a yearning I don’t really want to re-experience. Other than my partner, my remaining family lives across an ocean from me and it’s not always possible to get together.
So I try to turn Christmas into something fun but different. I try to imagine how the non-turkey brigade spends the holidays and ask myself, what would you do for Christmas if you could?
For some inspiration, have a look below at my alternative Christmas celebration ideas.
25 Less Usual or Alternative Holiday Ideas around Christmas
1. Go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Why not rent a villa in Tuscany for the holidays? I mean Tuscany… natural beauty, sunshine, food and wine… You could take a cooking class while you’re there. Or any class. Spruce up your Italian, and put it to good use when you discuss the price of those glorious leather bags.
2. Flip it over. If you’re up for travel, why not change hemispheres? If you’re from the North, a BBQ on the beach in December should shake your cobwebs. And if you’re from the South, head North and discover the real meaning of SNOW. Unless you’re from Chile, Argentina or New Zealand, of course…
3. Have a party with new friends if you’re already away from home. I’ve spent many Christmas holidays around the world on the road and a memorable one involved people I’d met in a hostel lobby, planning to meet up a couple of weeks later, and a party on Zanzibar, all with people I barely knew. And what a party it was!
4. Pamper yourself. Spend the week in a spa getting pummelled and taking off the weight while everyone else is putting it on. Or go for ayurvedic treatment and detoxify. The new you may be just around the corner. Or the same old you, but healthier.
5. Be quiet. What about a silent retreat for ten days in Thailand? A friend of mine tried the highly-regarded Suan Mok monastery and came back raving (or maybe she was just thrilled at being able to talk again). No matter. Most everyone who has stayed there comes back changed. Yes, for the better. But I don’t think it’s for the meek.
6. Visit Santa. The REAL Santa in Lapland. You could see the Northern Lights while you’re at it, go snowshoeing and dogsledding, and do a lot of sitting around with a warm cup in your hand. And while you’re in northern Europe, why not drop into some of its fabled Christmas markets? Not to buy anything, mind you, just to feel the buzz. It’ll be one of the most memorable alternative family holidays you’ll ever take.
7. Taste extreme winter. While we’re on the theme of cold and winter, Iceland and Greenland come to mind. If you’re going to do winter, why not go mega-winter? Both countries welcome visitors in December and have plenty of special deals for those who brave the weather. There’s always Alaska and Northern Canada if they’re closer…
8. Take a winter driving class. Admit it, you’re brave and courageous but when that ice gets slick your stomach whips straight to your toes. There’s nothing like learning a controlled skid (or learning to avoid one altogether) to give you confidence when hell freezes over.
9. Do something wildly different. Not that this is for everyone, mind you, but if you’re looking for something memorable (and happen to be an utter masochist) why not go ice swimming? The faint of heart can try plain old winter swimming – none of this is hard to find in North America or Northern Europe. Enjoy!
10. People-watch. Go to the airport a few days before these international holidays. Look at the crowds. Be grateful you’re not going anywhere. That woman asleep on her suitcase with her purse gripped in her hand could be YOU. Then turn around, go back into town, and treat yourself to something you’ll enjoy.
11. Indulge. This just may be the time to do something over the top luxurious. Just for yourself. Even just for one night. It will cost you, but it should be a night to remember. That three-star Michelin restaurant has your name all over it. So does that plush bed at the Ritz, the one with the liveried doorman and wrought iron Art Nouveau elevator? You could do something naughty. Or forbidden. Just this once.
12. Travel vicariously. Find a wonderful travel blog you’ve been meaning to sink yourself into (here are a bunch of solo female travel blogs to choose from). Read the whole thing from start to finish. Why not check out some of the great contributors to this post above?
13. Go over to the dark side. Delve into Atlas Obscura and enjoy a virtual visit to the ‘world’s wondrous and curious places’. A little odd, a little different, but always amazing. It’ll make you forget all about Christmas.
14. Decide to stay home. I cringe when I even type that horrible word, ‘staycation‘, but exploring your own backyard has a lot going for it. I’ve been doing that here in my own region in Eastern France and I never realized how much there was right on my doorstep.
15. Do something with your hands. Be honest: how often do you do that (outside of washing dishes and hitting the keyboard, I mean)? Get the scissors and construction paper out and make your own cards. Strip an antique chair and polish it. Paint an intricate design on an old cupboard. Make a teddy bear. Or make a snowcat if you have snow. Pull out stray bits of Lego, toothpicks, matches, puzzles, knitting, origami – and focus. If you’re on the road, go to the market and find a woman who is making things – show interest and she might teach you how it’s done. It’s better than meditation.
16. Surprise your palate. If you’re staying home, try cooking something unexpected, and unChristmassy. A summer cocktail? Handcrafted fruit salad? Go on, run wild.
17. Do something ridiculously banal, like change your Facebook header image. Your alternatives to celebrating Christmas don’t have to be grand or exciting. Or switch out your Twitter profile. Add a board on Pinterest. It’s a sneaky way to get back into social media, where you may well find other women who feel just like you do about the holiday season.
18. Update your address book by sending out your own e-greeting cards. Haven’t made any before? Check out simple services like Blue Mountain. Going through your address book will make you ask yourself, How badly to I want to keep that person on my contact list? Or maybe even… “It’s been way too long since I reached out to that person!”
19. Explore your family roots: make this time Genealogy Time. Lock yourself up with your computer and go online. Travel to your ancestral home to research your origins.
20. Commune with the land. Pick a glorious, amazing, stunning, incredible, magnificent or sublime site – and go there. You can start with this list of World Heritage Sites to see if there’s anything near you.
21. Catch up with nature. How long has it been since you’ve spent a bit of time with animals (and I don’t mean your pet). Go to an ethical zoo. Visit the botanical gardens or a bird conservatory. Better yet, take a trip and discover wildlife. I did just that in Sabah, on the island of Borneo.
22. Think of others. Volunteer. This is something you can do anywhere, with a local charity in your town or city, or abroad – there isn’t a country out there without some kind of non-governmental organization (well, North Korea perhaps). It can be something as simple as spending an evening or two driving people home who have had too much to drink.
23. Get nostalgic. Christmas is a great time for classics and I love the thought of curling up in front of a fire and watching Casablanca, Singing in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz… And if you want your movie to be Christmassy, then it’s a toss-up between Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Carol (and of course, Heidi). More into TV than movies?
24. Have a gratitude day as an alternative to Christmas. Remember, you’re lucky enough to have a choice. You can decide not to eat turkey. And you can also change your mind. Millions of people around the world would envy you that choice. I love writing out gratitude lists: they remind me how utterly wonderful life really is, even when it isn’t. Top it up with a few philosophical readings from Brain Pickings.
25. Make your New Year’s Resolutions. I know, you’re a week early, but that’s the idea. Start making your resolutions and, magically, you’ve skipped Christmas!
Now I know plenty of you may cringe at the mere idea of resolutions, and that’s fine.
To me, though, they’re important.
These resolutions are my road map, bumpy, winding, but forward-looking. I cling to them. They stand by me if I flag or lag or get stuck. They keep me on track and encourage me to aspire, to work, to challenge myself.
Come to think of it, I’ve never been worse off after making a resolution. I’ve never NOT traveled somewhere or eaten more poorly or spent more money after making a resolution.
So in the absolute worst-case scenario, my resolutions will keep me where I am.
At best, they’ll help me reach the stars. Eventually something changes for the better. I may not get rich, but I spend less time sipping on Amazon. I may not lose weight, but I exercise more.
AND THEN THERE ARE TRAVEL NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS
By winter solstice I’m already uncapping a new (navy blue, slim-tip Pilot) pen, dusting off a clean page in my notebook, and scribbling on scraps of paper. I start my list half a dozen times, alphabetically, chronologically, randomly, geographically. Backwards. Thematically. In French and in English. I stare at the world map on my wall (the one you can scratch off the countries you’ve visited).
The journalist in me asks questions: What is the actual resolution? Can I get it done during the year? Is it realistic? Can I afford it and if not, what do I need to do to change that?
Here are some examples of travel resolutions:
- Deciding to visit a specific place next year
- Start keeping a travel journal as you travel
- Spending the year exploring your own backyard by staying close to home
- Traveling to learn something, like a new language
- Traveling solo for the first time
- Learning to take better travel photographs
- Finally seeing the Northern Lights
- Daring to travel off the beaten track
- Buying a one-way ticket somewhere, if you’re ready to make the leap!
Any of these would qualify. Just beware, the Number One enemy of travel resolutions is overwhelm.
The longer the list, the lower the chances of success.
Resolutions of all kinds have been around for a long time.
We didn’t invent them, the Babylonians did, when they made promises to the gods for the coming year. I’ll keep making them, breaking them, revising them – and actually keeping a few.
And in any case, crafting travel resolutions is a great alternative to spending the holiday season trying to simply avoid Christmas.
— Originally published on 19 November 2017