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How to Celebrate Christmas as an International Student in the US

How to Celebrate Christmas as an International Student in the US main image

We already know the US is the top destination for international students from all corners of the world, but are they able to find a home away from home and feel at peace during the holiday season?

Given the fact the costs of going home are expensive, many international students choose to remain in the US during the holidays. That might not be such a bad idea! If you want to explore and immerse yourself in US culture, there is no better time than during winter holidays.

1. Discover how Americans celebrate ChristmasHow Americans celebrate Christmas

Christmas traditions in the USA are often not that different from what you would do at home. Americans like to prepare food and gather for the traditional Christmas dinner with family and friends. Some families will be attending church on Christmas Eve, and some will not.

Americans like to decorate their Christmas tree and house. You will be amazed by the magical decorations on display in the suburbs. Baking is a tradition long-associated with Christmas, and some cookies and milk will always be left out for Santa.

Another popular way to celebrate Christmas, often with work colleagues or a group of friends, is the Secret Santa exchange of gifts. People in the group buy and receive fun gifts without knowing who their “Secret Santa” is. The gifts will usually be something funny, or limited to a certain amount of money.

2. Take a Christmas tripTake a Christmas trip

I am sure you have lots of places you want to visit on your list. The winter holiday is the perfect time for you to do that. Lots of cities in the US undergo a huge transformation as Christmas approaches. You will find special events, carolers singing outside on the street and magical Christmas markets almost anywhere you go, so it will be impossible not to feel the excitement of the holiday season.

You could celebrate Christmas by treating yourself to a session on at one of the US’s many ski resorts, or soak in the magic of New York City by taking pictures of the gigantic Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center, or ice skating in Central Park. Or simply take the opportunity to go on any trips you’ve been wishing to make. Try doing something different and make sure you will always remember the fun you had while celebrating your first Christmas in the US.

3. Celebrate Christmas with other students

Maybe you can’t get to your family this Christmas, but you can still create that warming atmosphere even if you are far from home. Remember that there are lots of other students in the same situation as you. Many international students remain on campus over the winter break, so why not get together and do something fun?

Probably they are just as confused as you are, so take the initiative and plan a Christmas dinner and party. Ask everyone to cook something representative of the traditions in their own country, to decorate, or prepare Christmas carols or games. It is also very possible that your university will organize activities for students over the Christmas break.

If you’ve already made lots of friends, there is a high chance one of your American classmates will invite you to celebrate Christmas with their family. If that happens, don’t think twice about accepting; you will definitely have a good time.

4. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or shelterVolunteer at a shelter

Scientists say that making other people happy is an instant mood booster, so why not test that rule? If you’re feeling homesick and confused about what to do with your spare time, you could choose to use it in order to help people less fortunate than you feel the holiday spirit.

Most communities put together Christmas dinners for those in need and they’re always happy to take on another volunteer who can cook and serve food. This is your chance to give back to your new community and make new friends in the process. Remember there are plenty of other international students who are in the same boat as you, so ask them if they would like to join you. Check out local shelters for more information!

5. Share your own traditions

The fact that you are celebrating Christmas in the US doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy traditions from back home. You will learn lots of things if you get invited to spend the holidays with an American friend, but it’s also nice to show your friends what and how you celebrate in your own culture!

You can enjoy the traditions you are used to no matter where you are. Maybe you are not able to be with your own family in the comfort of your home, but you can plan a Christmas dinner with other students from your campus. It will probably be a lot bigger than the family dinners at home, and definitely a Christmas to remember. Sitting around a table and enjoying the flavors of home with your new study abroad friends is a great way of feeling the holiday spirit.

You can find many ways of enjoying Christmas as an international student in the US, and make it an unforgettable experience. Leave a comment below to let us know how you’re celebrating!

Written by manuela florea
Manuela is passionate about education and evolution and wishes to collect enough information in order to help students from all corners of the world take the big step towards their incredible future.

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