Spending Our Christmas Holidays Abroad

Sharing is caring!

Christmas has always been a special time for our family. In past years, we’ve celebrated Christmas with my siblings in Seattle, or with my parents in Spokane, or with my in-laws in San Diego. Now that we’re traveling full time, this is the first time we’re celebrating the Christmas holidays abroad. It certainly is a new experience for us!

For us, Christmas is the time of year to spend with those you love. And while we are far away from our loved ones this year, we are trying to find ways to still make this holiday season magical and special.

Celebrating the Christmas holidays abroad in Guanajuato, Mexico
A nativity scene in Guanajuato, Mexico (December 2018)

Spending Christmas away from home

This is not the first time our family has celebrated Christmas away from home. We once spent Christmas Eve in a small town in the middle of Texas, where our Christmas Eve dinner consisted of gas station hotdogs, and our night was spent at a cheap motel just off the freeway.

Fortunately, our Christmas that year was redeemed by having the most fabulous Italian dinner at a restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico on Christmas Day. I always refer to that Christmas as “The Saddest Christmas,” even though it did end on a good note.

So obviously, we’re used to celebrating Christmas away from home. But this is our first time spending the Christmas holidays abroad.  Here in the Mexican city of Guanajuato, we’re thousands of miles away from our family, and even far away from some of the friends we’ve met during our travels. As we celebrate Christmas this year, we have to find ways to keep our family’s Christmas traditions alive.

Celebrating Christmas holidays abroad in Guanajuato, Mexico
Dancers performing on the street in Guanajuato (December 2018)

Maintaining our family holiday traditions

One of our family Christmas traditions has always been to watch the ballet. As someone who spent sixteen years studying classical ballet, I always love watching performances of The Nutcracker. It brings back so memories of my childhood! While we were living in Seattle, I often brought my daughter to watch the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s performances of The Nutcracker.

Since we’re here in Guanajuato, we haven’t been able to find any performances of The Nutcracker. But, we did find a Christmas ballet performance put on by a local dance company. It was a Disney-themed performance, and we were quite impressed by the quality and talent of the dancers. While it was not The Nutcracker, it certainly did put us in the holiday spirit.

One of our other holiday traditions has always been decorating a Christmas tree. Since we’re staying in Airbnbs during our travels, we aren’t able to put up an actual Christmas tree. But our kids decided to draw their own trees, and have proudly displayed them on the wall of our Airbnb, so Santa knows where to put the presents this year!

And of course, Christmas isn’t complete without presents! Even though we’re spending Christmas away from home, we’re still maintaining our tradition of giving presents. Because space in our bags are limited, each family member will have one or two gifts from the family, and one gift from Santa Claus. It’s our way of keeping that Christmas spirit alive, while still living minimally.

Our daughter’s rendition of a Christmas tree (December 2018)

Making the most of our Christmas holidays abroad

The key to celebrating Christmas away from home is finding ways to make the most of where you are. We’re lucky to be able to spend our Christmas holidays abroad, in Mexico. This country is full of such rich cultural and religious celebrations, especially at this time of year, and we’re so excited to be able to experience them.

One of the biggest Christmas traditions in Mexico is La Posada, which began on December 16 and lasts until December 25. La Posada, which literally translates to “the inn” in Spanish, is the reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem to give birth to Jesus. Traveling from inn to inn, they were constantly being refused a stay, and eventually all they could find was a manger. Mexicans celebrate La Posada by going door to door singing carols, led by Mary, Joseph, and a donkey. 

Another Mexican Christmas tradition is the pinata. Mexican celebrate Christmas by putting together big family gatherings. And during these events, there are usually pinatas filled with candy for the kids to play with. The traditional Mexican pinata has seven points, to represent the seven deadly sins. Kids take turns being blindfolded and attempt to break open the pinata with a big stick. For our family, we bought our own pinata at the local market, and plan to break it open on Christmas Day.

Celebrating the Christmas holidays abroad in Guanajuato, Mexico
People dressed as Mary and Joseph for La Posada (December 2018)

Creating Christmas memories for our family

There is no doubt that our kids will remember this Christmas in years to come. While we miss our family dearly, we know we’re so lucky to be able to experience the Christmas holidays abroad. Being in Mexico at this time of year is incredible!

For all our friends and family around the world, we miss you all and wish you the happiest of holiday greetings. And if you happen to be traveling this holiday season, remember that there are still ways to maintain the spirit of Christmas away from home!

Have you celebrated the Christmas holidays abroad? Share your experience in the comments!

Spending Our Christmas Holidays Abroad | The Wandering Daughter

Don’t miss out on my latest tool, the Overseas Family Vacation Checklist. Click here to receive your free copy and subscribe to my newsletter.

The Wandering Daughter

Do you enjoy The Wandering Daughter blog? Like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest to get the latest news on family travel.

Related posts


12 Responses

  1. Love the ways you will keep traditions alive even if they aren’t the same. The pictures the kids drew of the tree is too cute – I’m sure it will be a different experience and will be one you will never forget 😉

    1. We usually spend Christmas with family too. But our family is spread out across the United States, so we usually have to pick and choose who to spend the holidays with.

  2. My husband has been in the military for 9 years, and each of those has been spent away from “home” with several abroad. I think that it’s been a beautiful experience and allowed us to experience the holidays around the world in different ways! This year, we are in Florida and will spend Christmas by the beach. Two years ago, we were in Alaska just outside of Santa’s house in North Pole, Alaska!

    1. Wow, what a unique experience for your family! I bet the kids were excited about being at the North Pole when you guys were there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Let's connect

Hi, I'm Astrid

Photo of Astrid Vinje
I'm a travel-loving mom of three from Seattle. Join our adventures as we explore the Pacific Northwest and the world!

Want to go somewhere?




Rent a car from locals

Use this referral link to get $25 off your first Turo car rental.


Buy a Madera Hammock, and you'll help to plant a tree!



Read about my adventures in Togo, where I served in the Peace Corps, in this journal style memoir.

Before you go, how about signing up for my email list? You’ll get more great family travel tips sent directly to your inbox!