holiday activities
With COVID-19 still limiting travel and movement worldwide, many international students will experience their first solo Christmas this year. Source: Tolga Akmen/AFP

Spending the holidays away from home is a rite of passage international students may choose for the experience — but this year, many are cornered into it. While a solo Christmas is entirely on-brand for the year we’ve had, it doesn’t have to be lonely or sad. Here, we’ve compiled some holiday activities to bring cheer to every student braving the Yuletide alone.

Pick up a hobby outside your comfort zone

As things wind down towards the end of the year, we tend to get reflective. This could be a good time to attempt one of those new year’s resolutions you didn’t get around to, like gardening or baking. Not only will it be a great distraction, but you will also get productive in new ways.

holiday activities

Poinsettia, poinsettias everywhere. Source: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP

You could start your garden with a Christmas-themed plant; think poinsettia, cactus, or rosemary. Poinsettia, for the unitiated, is named after the first American ambassador to Mexico — a bright red house plant that seems to appear everywhere you turn. You could also recreate grandma’s famous fruitcake or pudding recipe — pro tip: soak the fruits in brandy or bourbon a month in advance.

Prepare a feast for one

Yes, you’ll miss the epic spread back home, but look on the bright side: for once, you get to create your own Christmas meal. Shortlist two or three of your favourite dishes, then call your mother for her tips and tricks. Who knows — this may be the year you finally learn to make soup from scratch.

Since traditional rules don’t apply, your Christmas dinner can be anything you choose. Homesick for a bowl of noodles or a spicy curry? Go for it. Craving a full breakfast spread? No one will stop you…

holiday activities

Bringing cheer to others is a great way to spend your solo Christmas abroad. Source: Mark Ralston/AFP

Revive a lost tradition

Remember when you were a child and Christmas seemed like the most magical time of year? It’s time to recreate some of that magic. You could put up your own tree, write cards to your loved ones, even wrap gifts for underprivileged children. No matter what it is, your chosen holiday activities should bring warmth to you and your community.

Volunteer to improve someone else’s Christmas

That brings us to the noble way to celebrate Christmas alone: focus on someone other than yourself. Though your options are limited by the COVID-19 situation in your area, there are always soup kitchens, orphanages, or homes that need a helping hand as the holidays roll around. Pick a project and get a friend involved, too — it could be the start of a new tradition.

Treat yourself

Don’t forget to do something nice for yourself. Get yourself that gift online, order your favourite meal on Boxing Day, or simply allocate time for a walk in nature when others would be indoors. You’d be surprised at the joy you can derive from a simple, low-key Christmas alone. It can be the reset you need before bracing for the new year ahead.