It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With the holiday season underway, many Americans are frantically shopping for holiday gifts and decking the halls with lights, stars and decorations. For assignees abroad, this holiday season may be a little different, especially if this is the first time they have been away from their families and the traditions they have built for years. Fortunately, holiday celebrations abroad are often filled to the brim with unique local customs, many dating back thousands of years. Although it may not be the American Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah season your assignees are used to, there are plenty of opportunities to discover the local holidays and the culture that comes with it.
Here are three ways you can help your assignees embrace local customs and traditions this holiday season.
Even if your assignee won’t be watching this year’s Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting live, they may find the unique holidays abroad, like the Czech Republic’s Feast of Mikuláš (Saint Nicholas Day) and Colombia’s El Día de las Velitas, just as enchanting.
During the Feast of Mikuláš, adults visit local homes dressed as St. Nicholas, the Devil and an angel to deliver children treats and coal based on whether they were “naughty” or “nice.” Children across the country sing carols and recite poems in the hopes that they will remain (or move to) the nice list in time to get presents for Christmas. If your assignees were disappointed about missing Halloween, this may be just the celebration they’ve been craving with tricks and treats to match!
During Colombia’s unique celebration of El Día de las Velitas, assignees can enjoy a month long celebration filled with lights, paper lanterns and candles to honor the immaculate conception. Many locals celebrate into the early hours of the morning as they bring in the holiday season with family and friends.
Many countries abroad have extravagant festivals and holiday seasons completely unique from any celebrations stateside. Encouraging your assignees to take part in cultural festivals and traditions abroad will help them better adjust to their new surroundings and first holiday season away from home. If your assignee is based in the Philippines, they may have been celebrating the holiday season for months! Known as the longest Christmas celebration in the world, Pasko starts in September and goes all the way until January! Assignees in Australia may even get a little sun this holiday season as many holiday festivities are celebrated on the beach. Holidays like Australia Day involve a huge community beach celebration, as well as parades and fireworks to help your assignees celebrate the holiday season with a bang.
Celebrate with a Local Family
If your assignees are craving a more family-centered celebration this holiday season, celebrating with a local family may be a great option. There’s nothing quite like sitting around a big table with a prepared meal during the holiday season. Many families are eager to extend their homes to expats and some U.S. consulates around the world can help connect interested families. This a great way to try local cuisines, as well as see firsthand the local festivities. For families based in India, this may mean eating your holiday dinner around a decorated fruit tree instead of the traditional pines. For those in Israel, it might mean chowing down on Kuku Sabzi, a traditional egg and herb based holiday dish. Whatever family traditions your assignees take part in, it’s sure to be a holiday they won’t soon forget.
No matter where your assignees are celebrating this holiday season, make sure they set aside time to chat with family and friends. There’s nothing quite like a quick hello from family to make your assignees’ holiday special. For more advice on helping your assignees adjust abroad, check out the HR Manager’s Toolkit.