Sunday, March 3, 2024

Separated From Family This Christmas? Here’s How to Get Through

This year many Kiwis are facing ANOTHER Christmas separated from their loved ones – particularly those whose friends and families are overseas. Hopefully Christmas 2022 will be a different story but in the meantime, here’s our guide for coping with all that distance during the holidays.

Christmas is usually one of two extremes for Aucklanders Kate and Mark.

They’re either throwing snowballs at each other – or one of Kate’s five siblings – back in her hometown of Minnesota. Or, every other year, they’re across the ditch, sweltering as they turn the prawns over on the BBQ with Mark’s family in Brisbane. Either way, Christmas is always a massive, fun, exhausting occasion that everyone (except for their accountant) looks forward to each year.

This year, they’d fiddled with the plans a bit, and were due to go to Minnesota to introduce their baby girl to her grandparents for the first time. Instead, now, like many Kiwis, they’re faced with a great deal of uncertainty around when they’ll next get to see their families again – and it’s certainly taken the sparkle off this Christmas.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m so pleased we live in NZ,” says Kate. “But I’ve never felt homesick quite like it until this year. I think it will be quite an emotional Christmas.”

As something of a silver-lining though, Kate and Mark spent last Christmas in NZ, with Kate too pregnant to fly, so they have some experience and tips for getting through.

Last year, Kate’s mum got organised early and sent over a care package which included two glasses, two placemats and two napkins from her own sets at home that they’d be using on the big day. She also included a matching tablecloth, decorations, crackers, snacks and a little mix of her own homemade pumpkin spice.

They talked through recipes for the big day – and got up bloody early to start cooking – to put lunch on the table in their Auckland home at the same time as her extended family over in Minnesota laid out their dinner.. “They had the laptop set up down the end of the table with us on Skype, and it did almost look like we were there. It was pretty hilarious” says Kate.

This year they’re doing the same thing, but twice, with dinner now booked in with Mark’s family in Brisbane. No, it won’t be the same, they say, but it’ll certainly tide them over until their next visit.

We may be separated by distance this year, but there are loads of clever ways of feeling as though you’re a part of your loved one’s celebrations. But also, don’t forget the people who are around you this year – it’s a good year to think about who might be alone this Christmas and who might be delighted to be invited over, even just for a shandy.

Five Top tips for Celebrating Separately, but Together

If you’re away from those you love this festive season, here are a few ideas to make you feel a bit more involved in each other’s lives. Make this year the year you start some new, very special traditions

+ Countdown together! Start a new tradition by each buying the same advent calendar. If your loved ones are overseas look for a site that does international shipping, or a site like Amazon. Have a synchronised time you both open it each day, and you’ll have a moment together every single day in the countdown. Go for a fun beauty product one and try them out together – or a candle-a-day calendar and get all warm inside knowing you’re burning the same scent.

+ Share a playlist. Create a Spotify playlist with your favourite Christmas (or non-Christmassy) songs and share it with those you love, no matter where they are in the world.

+ Synchronise your Christmas movies. Sit down for a viewing of your favourite film and have a long distance movie marathon. Either get them on Facetime/speaker phone and push play at the same time, or try an app like Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party) which synchronises your films/shows and adds group chat.

+ Keep up the traditions you’d do together – but in the respective cities you’re in. Do you normally go to church on Christmas Eve with your mum, but she’s in a different city this year? Make sure you both head along anyway! Normally have a glass of Champagne on Christmas morning with the family, but it’s just you this year? Treat yourself to a little bottle and still have a toast!

+ Write Christmas cards. Remember the days when every surface would be covered in cards? Perhaps even the classic ‘family newsletter’ which was tucked inside? BRING THOSE DAYS BACK! Send your friends and family who you’re apart from a handwritten card this year. Everyone loves getting mail!

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