Home Away From Home Holiday Experience



It’s that time of year again: "The Happiest Time of Year," might I add. The holiday season is upon us and the pressure is on!

As a NFHC AmeriCorps member, I understand the many stresses that accompany the holiday season. With only so many personal leave days a year and a bank account that isn't quite up to par, it can be nearly impossible to go home for the holidays. But fear not! I've had many amazing, fulfilling holidays away from home and am here to share some of my tips so that you to can make the most of the sugarplum season! This year, AmeriCorps members will open up presents, create yummy dishes, and start new memories right here in Jacksonville, Florida!

Although we may not be able to participate in familiar traditions, there are still ways to feel joy and experience the season's magic. Here are some useful tips members will utilize for a "Home Away From Home" holiday experience.
Connect with Loved Ones...Virtually!
Most people have a device (Smartphone, tablet, laptop, whatever makes you feel fancy,) that allows them to connect to the world via the World Wide Web. As long as you have a camera and decent internet connection, your loved ones can be right there with you…on the computer screen. 

Skype is an amazing, FREE way to connect with those long distanced love ones. You can share a “Holiday Breakfast” together or have a decoration contest and see which place looks more festive (virtually, of course!). It’s like your family is with you except now you can turn off the screen when they start to bicker!

Expand your Taste Pallet 
Nom nom nom
Honey Baked Ham, green bean casserole, and Egg Nog are all staple dishes for the holidays. The aromas of these foods take you back to a time when you were 5 years old and the only concern was who could open up their presents the fastest. Unfortunately, times have changed and we can’t always make it home for those familiar smells (I definitely can’t cook a ham by myself!), so it’s time to create our own holiday dishes. Host a potluck! Invite friends, colleagues, and neighbors over to share in an awesome feast. Tell everyone to bring a dish (traditional or non-traditional) and prepare some fun games to play (Apples to Apples, Charades, and a White Elephant gift exchange). You’ll be introduced to other people’s traditions and be able to create your own in the process.
Spread a little cheer

You don’t get that warm and fuzzy holiday feeling by standing in long lines at stores or diminishing your bank account. Step outside of your comfort zone and do a little bit more giving of yourself rather than products this year—not only does it make you feel good, but someone else as well. Try and volunteer at a local soup kitchen on Christmas Eve, or create a care package for a family in need. This puts everything in perspective of how precious life is and what there is to be thankful for. Thanksgiving morning I ran in the “Turkey Trot 5k”, a “Feed the Hungry” fundraiser that raises money for local food and homeless shelters in Vero Beach.  Not only did I get a great work-out but I was able to contribute to a meaningful cause.

So don’t stress if your holiday season doesn’t live up to your childhood memories. You have the ability to make the best of any situation and find ways to have a happy holiday, even if all you do is add some marshmallows to your hot cocoa!

Happy Holidays, where ever you are!

---Tatiana Giustizia