Celebrating the Holidays When Family Lives Far Away

Two years ago my family and I moved all the way from Louisiana to Pennsylvania, leaving my huge family behind in the South. While we used to see my siblings, parents, nieces, nephews, and extended family for the holidays, we now just celebrate with our little nuclear family. I know that we aren’t alone in this situation; many families live too far from their relatives or simply can’t make the trip to visit them for the holidays. So, how can you avoid the holiday blues and keep this time of the year special when your relatives aren’t close by?

With technology these days, it is so easy to incorporate your far-away family into the holidays. Set up a video chat with all your family members (and try to guess who is still in their Christmas jammies from the waist down). Or ask them to text you a quick “Merry Christmas!” video before the big day so that your kids can see their faces on Christmas day. Just don’t forget to also send them a festive message from your kids; they will enjoy this!

Continue the traditions that you did growing up. Whether silly (being the first to spot the pickle ornament in the Christmas tree), religious (making a birthday cake for Jesus) or simple holiday fun (driving around to see Christmas lights), let your child partake in the fun traditions that you used to do when you were younger. Just don’t be surprised when you realize I’m turning into my mother! as you bang on the roof to simulate reindeer noises on Christmas Eve.

Start your own traditions. Instead of being sad that the holidays look different from when you lived close to family, think of fun new things to do with your own little crew. It could be an annual event—local light shows, Christmas festivals and parades—or simply having hot cocoa and watching a favorite Christmas movie on Christmas Eve. Because no matter how many times we watch Will Ferrell shove spaghetti with syrup and candy in his mouth, it will always be funny!

Celebrate with close friends. Just because your family lives far away doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate with other loved ones who are like family. Reach out to someone from your local crew to see if they want to spend the holidays together. And just think: one of the family traditions you won’t be sad to miss is your uncle and father fighting over politics at the dinner table!

Embrace the calm. Let’s be honest: traveling can be exhausting, especially with little ones! So, enjoy not having to travel from Grandma’s house to Aunt Sally’s house to your cousin’s house on the big day. Enjoy staying in your (Christmas) jammies all day with your nuclear family. Let your kids enjoy playing with their new toys from Santa without having to rush off to a relative’s house (guilt-trip free).

If you live far from family, don’t dwell on the distance; instead, focus on what your own little family (or local friends who are like family) can do together to make the holiday special. After all, doesn’t staying in your Christmas jammies all day sound like a present in itself?

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Madison Stilson
Madison is a Louisiana native who recently moved to with her family to Harmony, a small town in the Pittsburgh suburbs. Madison studied Elementary Grades Education at LSU after which she taught elementary school in Baton Rouge. She is now a stay-at-home mom who enjoys watching “Blippi” and tripping over Hot Wheels that her son Matthew leaves all over the floor. She has an affinity for all things organization; a new planner, label maker, or cubby is like Christmas morning to her. She is often guilty of staying up well past her bedtime reading library books on her Kindle or watching Lifetime Christmas movies. Madison has struggled with chronic health issues for the better part of a decade and is constantly working toward improving her health. She enjoys connecting with other mamas and appreciates the creative outlet that writing provides her.