By the SMU Digital Marketing Team
Living abroad sure has its perks: From being able to discover new cultures to learning to be self-reliant, there are plenty of life-changing benefits to studying or working overseas. For many of us, however, there’s no place like home during the festive season — especially after having experienced the tumultuous global events of the past year or two. But just because celebrating the holidays away from home is a little different does not make it all bad. With Diwali, Christmas and New Year coming up as we near the end of 2021, here are some tips on evoking and enjoying the festivities right here in Singapore:
1. Transform your room/home into a festive wonderland
It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to figure out that fairy lights, bright colours and other festive touches go a long way in lifting our mood. Research has proven that certain forms of holiday decorating can boost spirits: Nostalgia — perhaps evoked through festive tunes or the retelling of familiar narratives — can promote a sense of optimism, while sensory elements like lights and colour can create a neurological shift and boost mental health.
Even if the extent of your holiday decorating experience has largely been limited to assembling a mini Christmas tree from Daiso, it’s never too late to channel your inner Martha Stewart. Start by streaming shows like Netflix’s Mr Christmas to pick up ideas on cost-efficient ways to turn your living space into a holiday staycay. Or check out hacks on how to create a DIY rangoli on YouTube and design your own harbinger of positivity and good luck.
2. Set up a virtual Secret Santa
Let’s face it, one of the best parts about the holidays is a Christmas gift exchange. But just because you can’t gather with your family to rip open presents on Christmas morning does not mean you can’t start a new gifting ritual. Websites like Elfster allow participants to create wish lifts, set a budget and remotely assign gift recipients in just a few clicks. Other helpful sites even allow users to create wish lists complete with links to online stores, so you can shop for gifts safely and efficiently — without having to worry about visiting the post office to ship your parcel.
Then, organise a virtual gift exchange party to open your gifts on camera. Consider letting everyone take stabs at guessing their own Secret Santa and watch as everyone put on their best poker faces!
3. Plan a foodie virtual party
Think outside the (gift) box when it comes to planning a fun-filled, creative festive virtual party. In addition to opening presents online or simply chatting with your nearest and dearest, why not organise a virtual cooking party and recreate family recipes in your kitchen?
A 2013 study that examined the impact of cooking on family relationships and cultural identity development has found that cooking can be “a vehicle of connection to both family and culture” while promoting bonding over a shared goal.
Take the opportunity to invite the top chefs in your family to submit their best recipes ahead of the event, and compile them into a lovingly designed e-recipe book or even a blog. Or set up a social media group for family members to upload recipes, links and even photo albums of the dishes recreated in their kitchens. Then, curate a menu for the virtual party complete with the selected recipes. To level up, design a themed backdrop for everyone to use when they’ve finished cooking and are digging into their dishes as a family.
4. Find your tribe
With the absence of a family and friends network one could rely on for support, being in a foreign land can increase one’s susceptibility to mental health issues. However, spending the holidays away from home does not mean you need to be all alone.
Gather a few fellow countrymen or women to catch up on the latest pop culture back home – virtually or physically – while keeping within the recommended Safe Management Measures of course. Pay homage to your roots by visiting restaurants serving food from your hometown (in small groups), send food deliveries, or simply check in on one another.
For the culinarily-gifted, whip up some dishes from back home and share them via delivery to help your compatriots feel less homesick.
5. Spread the festive cheer
The holiday season is often tougher on those in need. Try getting in touch with groups that care for migrant workers to see how you can help residents of certain dormitories — many of whom have not been permitted to leave their dwellings since the start of the pandemic. For example, ItsRainingRaincoats, a local initiative that aims to spread kindness to migrant workers in Singapore, runs an annual drive to distribute Diwali care packs and food to the community. You may even start your own virtual SMU student community service initiative and explore how you can help groups such as residents of nursing homes who are unable to receive visitors during the pandemic, or round up fellow international students to “adopt” a family in need for the holidays by preparing a festive meal, care hamper and gifts.