Three Ways to Beat Holiday Blues Abroad

Author’s Note: I was overwhelmed at the personal responses I got from my last post, from friends and other bloggers alike. I am by no means giving up on Spain or planning a move home, but I merely wanted to make people aware that leaving one’s home country and striking out elsewhere has its downfalls, too. Even moving to a different city in your state can bring on feelings of isolation and homesickness, so it’s only natural that doing it all in a different country does, too. I woke up with a better attitude after having spilled my guts, but your words of encouragement certainly helped. As they say, a mal tiempo, buena cara.

Ho, ho, ho, I’m a huge Scrooge. Despite my usually cheery personality (please excuse my last post), I am not listening for sleigh bells or roasting chestnuts over an open fire (though I do love snacking on them). In fact, I chose to come to Seville because there was no snow, no Santa Claus and no Black Friday.

But what to do when everyone thinks the days are merry and bright, and you’re hoping for lumps of coal in your stocking to match your mood? Beating the holiday blues, especially when abroad and missing your family (and maybe even a few corny Christmas specials), can be as easy as finding your American friends and clinging onto what American traditions you can. So, amigos, without further ado, your holiday sneer cheer.

Bake until your mini primer burns out!

Although I’ve loathed Christmas for as long as I can remember, I remember all of the afternoons spent baking with my mother and sister in our kitchen growing up. Sugar cookies, chocolate chip for my dad, anise-laced wafers, fudge fingers, Mexican wedding balls – Nancy laid down a schedule and we stuck to it, often hastily stuffing my father’s christmas cookies into a tin and not even bothering to wrap them on Christmas Eve before Mass.

Using Lauren’s recipe for sugar cookies, I gleefully pulled out my new purchase from IKEA (a flour sifter), the vanilla Lisa brought me from home and the last lone egg Kike left me for baking purposes. I made a mess, as usual, and might have broken my mini primer (Santa Baby, hurry down my non-chimney tonight with a hand mixer, please!), but the elation of uncovering the hardened dough and using cookie cutters bought at a hardware store hidden in Bellavista brought me all kinds of elation. And since I’m home alone till Christmas, they’re all mine!

Thankfully, my group of guiritas and I will be having our second-annual cookie exchange this afternoon, so I can expect mulled wine, Love Actually and plenty more cookies to bring more holiday cheer.  If not, there are always pig-lard delicacies to enjoy!

Watch American Football and not feel bad about it

I get homesick a lot in the Fall with important holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving making us scrambling to find turkeys and a Halloween costume not resembling anything dead. And, duh, it’s football season. I love me a good conference rivalry and the taste of Natty Lite on my lips before the sun’s even up, so being away from the Hawkeye State during September, October and November is torturous.

But, when my holiday esteem has sunk so low, it seems impossible to fix, I repeat my affirmation: There’s no place like Monday Night Football. There’s no place like Monday Night Football… Given Spain’s six- to nine-hour time difference, I can’t always watch the Packers (first Super Bowl win in my lifetime I had the stomach flu, the second time I had to go to bed to get up for school). But even watching the Saints with my NOLA pal this weekend, drinking a Budwesier was enough to make me enjoy the Christmas Lights when we left halfway into the second quarter of the Packers game.

For American and British sports coverage in Spain, look no further than the Irish pubs: Tex Mex on C/ Placentines, O’Neill’s across from the San Bernardo train station and Merchant’s Malthouse on C/ Canalejas. Since they’re catered to study abroad students and tourists alike, many have game day specials or Anglo-friendly activities (Sunday brunch!? Sí!!)

See the Christmas Lights

I grew up in Rockford, Illinois, a mid-sized city near the Wisconsin border. Margaret and I looked forward to driving through the annual Festival of Lights, noses pressed to the windows. It was nothing special, but it was loads better than the lady down the street whose lawn barfed out Christmas lights and plastic Santas. And, really, Rudolph’s nose is much more delightful when it’s lit up.

In Spain, the holiday season officially begins with the alumbrado of the Christmas lights on the Inmaculate Concpetion Day, December 8 (Yes, in case you’re wondering, I was off school. ¡Viva la Virgen María!) All along main shopping streets and city avenues, brightly-colored lights are strung, causing the city to cough up half a million euracos and people to stop mid-tracks in front of the oncoming light rail.

But, really, they’re lovely. Spots to hit in Seville include Avenida de la Constitución, Calle San Fernando, Calle San Eloy and Plaza Nueva. I have to settle with the pathetic display on the Alcampo supermarket nextdoor, but it’ll do, especially since the building next to mine blocks the light.

Now that our bellies are full of cookies and beer and our retinas burned from all those bulbs, who wants to scrooge it up with me?

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. Hello from a fellow Rockfordian auxiliar (and fellow Packer fan too)! You’re lucky that there are such beautiful lights in Sevilla. Galicia is apparently too poor for Christmas lights this year, haha.

    • I haven’t met another auxiliar from Rockford! I moved away when I was 12, but spent all of my formative years there and turned out ok (I lived close to Guilford, but of course was sent across town to school). Galicia has been poor since the beginning of time, as they spend all of their money on the August festas, but it’s lovely! I work in Coruna in the summer.

      • Ahh well, technically I’m from just north of Rockford really, right near the stateline, but it’s close enough for me. Totally understandable that you were sent across town for school! Is there a summer camp in A Coruña?

      • Yep, applications for Forenex will be out in February, use my name!

  2. Love your holiday light pictures. I love walking under them with a wind blowing. They don’t get any better than in Spain.

  3. You made them! And they look great! I’m making Nutella Cookies today… recipe to follow! Miss you!

  4. A Cubs and PACKERS fan? I was shocked to see such a thing! :) Glad you are starting to get in the holiday spirit! Have a safe flight home and enjoy your short trip to the states!

  5. Between the two of us, there will be no homesick expats this year!

  6. Between the two of us, there will be no homesick expats this year!

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      True! This year I’m feeling less homesick with all I’ve got going on, and I’ll be with my two Spanish families and then my own come Sunday! Merry Christmas, guapa!

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