25 Alternative Christmas Holidays If You Hate Christmas

Do your emotions go into a tailspin when 25 December gets closer? Do you countdown to Christmas – just to get it over with? Wondering what to do instead of Christmas?

You just might be ready for alternative Christmas holidays – or different ways of spending Christmas.

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.

Stuffed animals on sale
Christmas has become a time to buy, buy, buy

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 loved ones lives across an ocean from me and it’s not always possible to get together.

So I look for Christmas alternatives and try to turn it 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 ideas.

25 Less Usual or Alternative Holiday Ideas around Christmas

1. Travel vicariously

Find a wonderful travel blog you’ve been meaning to sink your teeth into (here are a bunch of solo female travel blogs to choose from). Read the whole thing from start to finish. You may discover your next travel dream destination – perhaps a celebrated festival or an unusual travel destination out of state or out of the country, a place you’ve never thought about. Or buy a travel guide book to someplace you’ve always wanted to go. And start planning.

2. Go somewhere that’s always been on your wish list

Why not rent a villa in Tuscany for the holidays? I mean Tuscany… natural beauty, sunshine, food and wine… the perfect winter activity, don’t you think? 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 you’ve been eyeing for so long.

Sunset over the South China Sea in Sabah
The inimitable sunsets of Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

3. Flip things over

If you’re up for travel, why not change hemispheres? If you’re from the North, a BBQ on the beach in December is tailor-made to intrigue you. And if you’re from the South, head North and discover the real meaning of SNOW. Unless you’re from places like Argentina or New Zealand, of course…

4. Become one 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.

5. People-watch

This is a fun one. Want the vibes of travel without the actual travel? 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, return to town, and treat yourself to something you’ll enjoy.

6. Have a party

Perhaps include new friends if you’re already on the road? I may not be one for group travel but I’ve spent many Christmas holidays away from home and a memorable one involved people I’d met in a hostel lobby and an eventual party in Zanzibar, all with people I barely knew. And what a party it was!

7. 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. Or why not do something over-the-top luxurious? Is this your chance to try that new Michelin-starred restaurant? Or spend the night at that amazing, plush hotel, the one with the liveried doorman and wrought iron Art Nouveau elevator? You could do something naughty. Or forbidden. Just this once. 

Ayurvedic medicine in Sri Lanka, a great idea for alternative Christmas holidays
Treatment from my ayurvedic treatment in Sri Lanka

8. 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.

9. Find out how the rest of the world celebrates 

Here are some different celebrations of Christmas from around the world. You may not be traveling, but you’ll get a taste of what people are doing on the other side of the planet. It may give you some novel ideas.

10. Surprise your palate

If you’re staying home, try cooking something unexpected, and unChristmassy. A summer cocktail? Handcrafted fruit salad? Go on, run wild. Think of things besides Christmas…

Delicious fruits and chocolate

11. 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. I mean, what are Christmas celebrations without Santa?

12. Do something wildly different 

Not that this is for everyone, mind you, but if you’re looking for something memorable for a non-traditional Christmas (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!

13. Experience 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…

Reindeer in Lapland in winter
Did someone say reindeer?
dog in the snow
Even if you’re not the snow type…

14. 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. If nothing else, this is one of the more unusual Christmas holiday ideas!

15. 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? 

16. 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.

17. 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.

A giant cat made of snow
Yep. Snow cat.

18. 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.

19. 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’m always amazed at how much there is right on my doorstep.

20. Do something ridiculously banal

Like changing your Facebook header image. Your alternatives to 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. Or browse through Amazon, looking for something silly like “alternative Christmas gifts“.

21. Update your address book 

Send 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 do 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!”

22. 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.

23. Think of others

Volunteer. It is one of the best alternative things to do on Christmas Day and 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.

24. Have a gratitude day 

A great 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 for that choice. I love writing gratitude lists: they remind me how utterly wonderful life 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. 

Beyond alternative Christmas holidays: planning for the new year

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:

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.


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