How to celebrate Christmas on your own abroad

As someone who loves Christmas and sees it as truly “the most wonderful time of the year”, there is some wisdom I would like to impart to you, my dearest reader. Currently, it is very challenging and non-advisable to be traveling home, especially if your home country imposes some type of quarantine, so I have decided to minimize all risks and spend Xmas here in Sweden.

It is true that this year has been particularly difficult when it comes to celebrating anything at all, but we should not let the fact that we are physically away from our beloved family and friends keep us from joining in on the holiday fun.

Here are 7 ways to make the most out of the holiday season and celebrate it alone while here in Stockholm.

1) Stay connected with your loved ones

This one is pretty obvious, however, I feel the need to remind everyone who can’t go home that they always have the internet, the greatest invention since the light bulb. Be it through Zoom, Messenger, Whatsapp, Facetiming, or even Skyping (if people still do that these days), it doesn’t get much easier to stay in touch with your loved ones! Be the one who calls your annoying brother, your 90-year-old grandma, your cute doggo, or even your pet hamster, there is nothing wrong with taking initiative and checking in on everybody you care about! They will tell you about the bad weather back home and you will complain that you haven’t seen the sun in months but hey, that’s why we love small talk! It’s important to stay connected, so don’t be a Scrooge and make that call!

A Swedish Christmas postcard

Another way I stay in touch with my family and friends is by sending them all postcards. I have sent close to 10 of them this year! It may seem old-fashioned, but most great things are! I think that it’s a thoughtful and nice way to show that you remember and hold them close to your heart during this time of the year. Also, nothing beats the child-like excitement of getting something in the mail nowadays haha.

2) Decorate your home

My friend’s Christmas tree (shoutout Ugne <3)

I always find that I only truly get into the Christmas spirit when all the visual cues start popping up before me – between the stars hanging from every window, the lights decorating otherwise-ordinary pine trees and street poles, and the Advent candles lit on the window sills, there is a lot of Christmas cheer spreading in the air. Hence, why not bring that cheer indoors? Decorating your apartment doesn’t necessarily need to include a Xmas tree but it could if you want to go all out! On the other hand, you can make your own Xmas sweater or start knitting some socks for your relatives. You can get supplies or some jolly Xmas ornaments at shops like Flying Tiger or Søstrene Grene.

3) Find fellow holiday loners

Being alone can make you feel lonely, but you can avoid this problem altogether if you find fellow human beings who are also staying in Sweden for the holidays. In my case, I have some friends from my Tennis club and my Master’s program who are not traveling and I have made some plans to safely see them outdoors, in accordance with public health recommendations. Maybe I will grab a hot chocolate or go for brunch at one of the close-by restaurants I have been dying to try out!

4) Cook your mom’s recipes

Nothing is better than my mom’s cooking, so when people ask me what I miss the most this holiday season, that’s always my answer! But one need not endure the plight of takeout food this Christmas away from home! All you oughta do is ask your mother for her delicious recipes and try your best in the kitchen. Literally no one expects you to succeed but if you do, you earn the bragging rights in front of the fam lol.

5) Read away your extra free time

The books just sitting on my shelf, waiting to be devoured

Reading is a very therapeutic activity for me, on top of being one of the most productive time-killers out there. I love reading in my free time and especially in the holidays, there is plenty of time to spare! Instead of wallowing about being alone in the holidays, I pick up a good book from my shelf and get transported to an entirely different place. If you didn’t bring any book from back home in your native language, you can always borrow some from Stockholms Stadsbiblioteket, as long as you already have a personnummer. Here is how you can get your library card and start the holiday book club of your dreams!

6) Get out of the house (safely)

The first step in putting yourself out there (figuratively speaking) is to literally step out the door and brave the cold! Just getting out of your comfort zone for a few minutes/hours a day can do wonders for your mental health and keep you from soliloquizing too much. For example, this past Saturday, I dragged myself out of the house, walked downtown, and explored the different exhibition sights for NobelWeekLights. I cannot express how good it felt to leave the house and do something fun like waggle back and forth on swings that lit up like fireflies in the dark. If you can think of one activity that can be safely performed outdoors by yourself, MAKE the time to do it every day this holiday season!

Blurred-me swinging through the space-time continuum

If all of the aforementioned coping strategies fail, you always have #7.

7) Watch those cheesy Xmas movies and fall in love with Xmas music again

For me, the holidays aren’t the holidays without some Christmas music and movies. Yes, you may get sick of listening to the same songs year after year, or watching the same Hallmark movie marathons over the decades, but if anything, 2020 has brought back a renewed sense of comfort from enjoying old classics that feel familiar and highly predictable. Movie-wise, my personal favourites include “Home Alone 2” (the sequel is better IMO), “The Holiday”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and “The Last Holiday”. Music-wise, here is my favourite Christmas playlist on Spotify.

I think we can all agree that this has been a pretty unusual year, so why not take an unconventional approach to the holiday season? Just take some time off from studying, working and generally stressing about 2020’s ups and downs, relax, go to a spa, do whatever fills your cup! Just remember to live in the present and enjoy the moment! If you would like to know more about how to celebrate a traditional Swedish Christmas, feel free to read Helen’s blog.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Francisca Leonardo - Molecular Techniques and Life Sciences

Francisca Leonardo - Molecular Techniques and Life Sciences

Hej! My name is Francisca. I come from the faraway land of the supreme maple syrup, aka Canada. I’m the blogger for the Master’s Programme in Molecular Techniques in Life Science at Karolinska Institutet. I love to write about my experience as a student in my programme, a newcomer to Stockholm, and a rookie at life in general. In my free time, I enjoy playing tennis, making music, sketching the city’s landscapes, and reading about anything and everything that interests me.


How to celebrate Swedish Christmas as an international student

How to celebrate Swedish Christmas as an international student

[…] There’s so much to a Swedish Christmas and it feels like this blog won’t do it any justice.  But the great thing about celebrating a Swedish Christmas as an international student is that you can celebrate 2 Christmases, especially if your family is in  a different time zone like mine! Get in touch with family at home and see if you can organise something together with them. If you’re interested in learning about celebrating Christmas alone, read Francisca’s blog called How to celebrate Christmas on your own abroad. […]

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