One of the most exciting aspects of beginning your career is establishing your adult persona. You looked forward to finding and furnishing your own place, to developing new friends and new routines. Your job also may have required a new location. Perhaps you now live in another state or across the country, miles away from your family and long-time friends, and you find you don’t have enough vacation leave or the necessary funds to go home for the holidays.
Missing a major family celebration, especially for the first time, can be difficult. In this era of electronic connection, you can be digitally present, at least for a while. That may help somewhat, but it won’t take the place of actually being there, of personal interaction and participation.
While it might seem like an OK idea to simply stay home, sleep late, order pizza, and watch old movies, you may find that the holiday drags, and that loneliness drags you down.
To avoid spending the holiday away from home feeling homesick, depressed, or sad, start planning your day now. Decide if you will try to duplicate part or all of your family’s usual celebration such as decorating your apartment or preparing the dinner menu your family enjoys. Next, decide if you will invite new friends or other colleagues who are also away from their home area to join you. If entertaining at home isn’t feasible or isn’t something you can or want to do, you could organize a group event such as dinner at a new restaurant. Depending on your geographic location, you could plan a gathering at a skating rink, or at the beach, or cycling in a special location. If there is an activity that you have been wanting to try, the holiday may just be the right time. If your time off is short, you might consider a day trip or an overnight visit to a nearby location that looks interesting. Or there might be a cultural event that you can attend to learn more about your new city.
One of the best ways to avoid feeling lonely or sorry for yourself is to volunteer to help others. There are many organized community services that need help on holidays. There might be a church preparing a meal for those who have no home, or a program that delivers food baskets or toys to families and children. Still other groups organize visits to nursing homes or provide transportation for people who wish to attend a religious service. Animal shelters may need volunteers to help fill in for regular staff who are off. The needs are great — so is the feeling of helping others.
Try to view this first holiday away from home, not as a loss or a negative, but as another new experience. It’s an opportunity to think about the importance the holiday holds for you and to explore some possibilities for celebrating holidays of the future in your own way. You may keep some of your family’s rituals, or start new traditions, or blend those of yours with those of a partner. That’s part of being independent and having the freedom to make personal choices.
You may always have nostalgia regarding being “home for the holidays,” and you may choose to go back to your parents’ home or your home area as often as you can. However, as your life situation changes, and as you grow and change on a personal level, your concept of home may also change. But for now, know that with a little advanced planning, you can successfully manage and adapt to a holiday away from home whenever necessary.