Christmas in prospect; a SWOT of possibilities!

Is Christmas better in prospect than reality? Does it live up to your expectations or struggle to measure up against the picture perfect images of an ideal home beamed at you by a hungry marketing machine.

Unless you are living a very quiet life, you will have encountered advertisements for Christmas merchandise from early November. They are in the ‘pop ups’ on your computer, the television (of course), billboards lining the streets, taking up aisles of your supermarket and you’ll hear the playing of (often jaundiced) Christmas music as you browse around the shops. Sometimes it even gets in to that most personal of spaces; our mobile phones!

I wonder what effect those omnipresent messages have on you. Perhaps they do tip you into a festive mood, giving you a warm glow in readiness for what’s to come or maybe they signal the beginning of weeks of shopping for presents (that you hope will demonstrate you purchased them thoughtfully) and a massive food shop which makes you wonder how you’ll make it through to January without considerable expansion.

I have noticed all of this and there are weeks of preparations to go yet!

I don’t wish to be a curmudgeon and I’m all for celebrating the birth of Christ, but the expectation to have a good one can weigh heavy at this time of year, particularly if there is another challenge to factor in.

Expats may feel they want to (or have to) travel to see family at Christmas, which adds a whole level of complexity to preparations. Such as what to do about presents – they can’t all be transported in suitcases and then there’s where to lodge – you don’t want to outstay your welcome and pressure to see everyone while you are back and so on.

For others who long for the familiarity of a family Christmas in their ‘home’ country, they will miss the people and special traditions. It can be difficult to get through Christmas day in a far off place…

Or in fact they may be really glad to be away from it all and possibly feeling guilty to boot – or not!

My memoir An Inconvenient Posting recounts my feelings on our first Christmas in Texas:

‘I yearned for family and aspects of home that made it feel like Christmas; cold weather, dark afternoons, the Queen’s speech, dubious television Christmas specials and wrinkly relatives.’

Christmas is especially difficult for those experiencing loss of some kind; when it feels like the rest of the world is in festive mood (clearly an illusion) how do you make it bearable? Some people may be reminded of happier times gone by, or be anxious how this Christmas will pan out when so much has changed in the last twelve months. They may just want it to be over and long for a distraction of some kind…

What are your pluses and minuses? I have thought of a few. I imagine you have others you could add to your own SWOT of thoughts (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). Possibly some of the ‘strengths’ I’ve noted might be considered a ‘weakness’ or vice versa.


Lots of social events.

Break from work.

The relief of knowing its done for another year.

Community coming together through events such as Christmas lights being turned on, carol services, school fairs, grottos etc.

Enjoy traditions; Christmas pudding, smell of pine needles in the house, stockings hung on the fireplace, a garland on the front door or maybe a bbq on the beach if you are in a warm a climate!


Loss of routine.

Might be exhausting

Hours spent writing cards and wrapping presents.

A lot of travelling to see people.

For the providers, it goes on for weeks.


Might see people you don’t get to meet very often; older children are often at home.

Excuse to spend time with extended family.

Play games/bond with children.

Nice presents!

Can put your feet up and read or watch TV.

Time to be thankful for what you’ve got and hopefully feel good about it.

Opportunity to give to others.


Feeling you have to attend functions you are not keen on.

Over doing it at the Xmas party.

Pressure to finish work tasks and others “before Xmas” events.

Too much pressure to shop.

Might get the wrong presents.

Too much time with family!

Enforced time together can lead to tensions and flare ups.


Wherever you are and whatever you are doing on the 25th December, Christian or not, celebrating or not, I hope you are feeling okay about the run up to it.

If you would you like to read more about Christmas as an expat and how I faired you can buy An Inconvenient Posting by Laura J Stephens published by Summertime Publishing on Amazon.


3 thoughts on “Christmas in prospect; a SWOT of possibilities!

  1. wordgeyser says:

    Timely advice Laura! I’m all for staying put rather than travelling – blend familiar traditions with the new, and if the kids are overseas, fly them home (they’re younger and more resilient if they have to send a night on an airport floor). They love nothing better than being ‘home’ for Christmas. And I’m happy to provide it – rather the stress of food and beds than cancelled flights and bad weather!

  2. Laura J Stephens says:

    Me too, I prefer to be at home, wherever that is and if possible have the relatives come to stay. And when the time comes and the children have flown the nest, I’ll be doing my best to get them

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