So here it is Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun!!!! Or are they?
For many people Christmas is about spending quality time with their friends and family, sharing food and drink, giving and receiving presents, eating and drinking too much and far too much rubbish TV.
For many others Christmas is a time of loneliness, sadness and solitude. Not everyone has someone to share it with. Not all students are able to return home for the Christmas period, especially for those who live far away. There are other ways to celebrate Christmas; here are 5 ways to have an alternative Christmas celebration.
Although lots of students do go home for the Christmas period, there are many who will still be here whether that is because of distance, money, work or study commitments. There will be lots of students who spend Christmas at University.
There may be events organised by your University or there may be local events during the festivities. It is worth checking out your University and Student Union to see what is happening on campus. In your local areas there will be lots to do, most activities are advertised online. Below are three good links for local activities.
If you are spending your holidays on campus it might be nice to organise a cultural Christmas. Get a few people together and have a shared Christmas meal where you can show and share with other students your cultural traditions, food, music, presents etc. If everyone shares one thing for a Christmas meal it could be a truly diverse, multi-cultural and inclusive Christmas for everyone.
If you have made some new friends, or perhaps rekindled a friendship from last year, it might be nice to spend Christmas with them, experiencing their cultural traditions, decorating the tree, sharing a traditional Christmas dinner and having cosy nights watching Christmas movies. For international students who perhaps don’t celebrate Christmas this can be a mutually exciting and insightful experience and can further enhance the international experience.
If you don’t fancy the idea of staying on campus, (or if the thought of spending two weeks with family is too much!), why not book a trip away. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a break somewhere else. You could, if you can afford it, go somewhere you have always wanted to visit, it could be hot sunny beach, it could be a snowy wonderland, it might be a short city break, wherever it is, do something different.
You will be far too busy exploring to think about being homesick and it gives international students a chance to see an alternative culture to the traditions in the UK.
Still with us, great then lets think about the tradition of Christmas for a second. In the story of Jesus the three wise men, the Magi, gave the baby gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Today we give gifts to each other to commemorate this.
Whilst out shopping this weekend I heard so many conversations about what to get each family member; what indeed do you get the man who has everything? Does grandad really need new slippers? Does mum want a matching oven glove and apron set or a bread making machine? Does Auntie Annie need a new electric blanket?
It is estimated that on Black Friday £2.53billion will be spent on Christmas, and, the average UK household spends £800 more in the month of December on shopping alone. This is a mind blowing amount of money being spent on food and drink (a lot of which is wasted), presents that people don’t really want or need, wrapping paper, cards, decorations, crackers, the list goes on and on and on!
What if this year we did it differently? What if this year instead of giving gifts we give the gift of giving?
There are lots of ways we can give. Time is one of the most valuable commodities we can offer. Giving someone your time freely and willingly not only helps them but will make you feel good too. There are food banks if you want to give to those who may not have a Christmas lunch otherwise; there are animal sanctuaries who need help over the festivities; there are hostels offering lunches for the homeless. In short there are lots of volunteering opportunities in your local area, have a look online and see what you could give.
If you want to buy gifts for your family but are unsure what to get, have a look at the charity gifts you can buy. Organisations such as Oxfam have lots of ‘unwrapped’ gift ideas such as a goat for a family, or clean water for a family of four, or education. There are lots of organisations that do this; Rather than buying something that will be thrown in a cupboard maybe think about a gift that will help to change a life somewhere in the world.
Remember: If you can’t find the spirit of Christmas in your heart; you wont find it under the tree.
Have a wonderful, festive and safe Christmas and a very happy and healthy 2020.