Christmas signifies different things in different cultures, so what surprises can you expect as an expat experiencing Christmas in the US? This month I chatted with several expats and they shared their thoughts:

Luba told me: In Russia, Christmas comes on January 7, but the New Year is the biggest celebration for us. I miss white soft snow and I miss “wonders in the air” – this is that magical time right before the New Year when everything seems possible and dreams do come true. As an international couple (Luba is married to an American) we celebrate everything in the US – Santa brings presents for Christmas and also Russian Father Frost fills up stockings for the New Year. Both get homemade cookies of course! I love the “cookie” part of American Christmas.

To all the group I asked:

What do you love about American Christmas and miss about ‘home’ at this time of year…

Everyone misses family – especially at this time of year but several expats remarked how much easier it is just to have their own little family group to celebrate with over the holidays.  Kate (Brit) remembered one tough Christmas Day spent in the air on the way to the UK – never to be repeated!!

Several remarked that they enjoyed being able to laze around in the house in their PJs and let the kids play with their new toys all day instead of dashing from one set of relatives to another.

Elaine (Scot) loves how everyone in the stores is wishing each other Happy Holidays! She missed “Merry Christmas” but the holiday spirit is still there!

Speaking of spirit, the Brits among us still like to share a wee drinkie on the hols! Baileys anyone? Champagne for breakfast perhaps? Liqueur chocolates aren’t a staple of an American Christmas but you can usually find them if you look carefully – and we do!

Along with drinks, we Brits miss our foodie favorites. Kate mentioned M&S goodies, Scottish shortbread and everyone’s favorite – Cadbury’s Selection boxes. Nothing beats those! This year we’re up in Canada and spotted Advent Calendars. Apparently those are very British too. We Brits have some of the best ways to increase our chocolate intake at this time of the year…

The Russians and Canadians all miss snow! Being under about 2 foot of snow just now I am finding it hard to agree with them but it does look gorgeous and we do all dream of a white Christmas after all. Fiona G (Brit) and her family miss those rare White Christmases so much she’s headed up to Canada now to enjoy the holidays!

Spectacular Christmas lights were mentioned many times along with the incredibly extravagant decorations in peoples’ yards! Fiona B(Brit) and Sarah (NZ) love touring the lights in their neighborhoods.

The Queen’s Speech was mentioned by a few Brits along with other Christmas Favorites. Kate misses all the series finales that would be timed for Christmas Day like the Strictly Come Dancing and X Factor finals. Julie (Brit) still laughs about the amazingly inventive soap opera storylines which would peak on Christmas Day in a desperate bid for viewers! Personally, I miss Dr. Who! Any year there was a new doctor you could guarantee he (and now she!) would make their first appearance on the Christmas Special.

Boxing Day – Canadians and Brits miss our wonderful day of rest and leftovers – December 26th. Maybe this is something the US ought to consider adopting? Tracey (Canadian) also added that most Canadian of traditions – skating!

Many expats noticed that America doesn’t shut down for two weeks to celebrate like they do in some other countries. Shopping kicks off for all countries almost as soon as we’ve unwrapped our gifts but most don’t hit their offices the day after Christmas like America does.

Some of us can’t bear to leave our favorite Christmas traditions behind: Alison (Brit & acknowledged Christmas addict) shared with me: “ Our traditions are the Candlelight Service at 11pm on Christmas Eve, the stockings appearing and then a very exciting morning on Christmas Day with the opening of presents! Hubby is on breakfast duty and then dinner at 6ish with candlelight and always a goose. “

Kathleen is back home in the UK now having lived as an expat in several countries. She remarked “I loved US traditions and those of Norway, Holland, Spain, Germany and France but home traditions are at the heart of my Christmas!”

Music and the Arts featured with several of our contributors – offering fond memories of loved ones, Christmas past and new favorites:

Darren (Brit) I have fond memories of listening to the Messiah every Christmas morning with my dad – on Vinyl – of course! Each year since he passed, I have made a point of hearing it live wherever I‘m living. It’s a great way to reminisce and enjoy a live performance at the same time. This year it was the Calgary Phil with natural trumpets. My dad would have loved it.

Ginger (China) I loved the times when we took my mother and mother-in-law to Houston‘s ballet company to watch the Nutcracker. I love Orchestral Christmas music and for the past 5 years, I have been to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. (As I write this, I see a post from Ginger showing she is at the TSO this very minute.)


Wherever and however you celebrate, all of us at CORT wish you the very best of Christmases and all good wishes for a healthy and successful 2018!