How to celebrate Christmas as a backpacker

23 December, 2018 6 By Amanda

It’s so hard to get into the Christmas Spirit abroad! We have snow which is great, but still the Christmas feeling isn’t on top here in Calgary. Of course, you can pay a visit to Zoolights, go to Christmas concerts or other events – but that will cost you quite much! Celebrating Christmas as a backpacker isn’t easy, since you probably don’t have that extra money to put into all of these activities.

Beautiful Christmas trees, for a good cause!

These beautiful Christmas trees will be given away to families who can’t afford to buy their own – such a nice thing to do!

I know, since we have snow, you would think that the spirit should be rather high – imagine how I will feel when/if I celebrate Christmas in Australia, New Zealand or any other country in the world that has summer during Christmas!

I guess it depends on how you usually celebrate Christmas and how keen you are on keeping your traditions. Somehow, Fredrik and I have managed to get our Christmas feeling to a, for me, decent level. It could for sure be even better, but I’ll share some of my best tips on how to celebrate Christmas as a backpacker – the way I do it!

How do you hande tangled Christmas lights?

I found this one on our way to Zoolights. I still find it hilarious! Probably because I can relate…


Decorations are very important! If you’re at home and everything looks like it usually does, how would you know it’s Christmas? Most of all I wish we could have a Christmas tree, but unfortunately our landlord is selling her house (which means we have to move eventually…) in the beginning of next year so everything needs to be clean and neat. Instead of a Christmas tree we decided to decorate our cactus. Fredrik has also surprised me with a new gift each day in my advent calendar. It has mostly been decorations that will be easy for us to pack in our bags (since they take no place and weigh nothing) or to give away after Christmas, and candy. Very much appreciated!

Christmas as a backpacker - we've done our best with the decorations!

Everything in this picture, except the cactus, has been gifts in my Advent calendar! It sure has helped getting into the Christmas spirit.

Also – don’t forget to decorate yourself! Buy a Christmas sweater! I found this one for 10 dollars(!), so I couldn’t resist. It’s not as colourful as I usually would prefer for Christmas, but since I love pandas I went for it anyway. I didn’t get Fredrik to buy one though, he thinks it’s stupid to buy something you can only wear for a couple of days each year. He’s such a grinch sometimes! Well, we’ll see what he’ll get for Christmas…

My new Christmas sweater!

It’s Christmas time!

Food and snacks

I love food! And snacks! It’s an important part of Christmas for sure, and very different depending on where you’re from. I don’t really like Swedish Christmas food so I’m not going to talk about that, it’s the same food we eat for basically every holiday and yes – it includes meatballs, but I love our Christmas snacks! Knäck is one of my favourites (it’s like a Christmas toffee), just as saffron buns and gingerbread cookies. We decided to make our own cookies, so we bought a dough at IKEA. It’s usually my mum who makes the dough, but this year I had to settle with a bought one – it was too expensive to buy all of the ingredients. It sure does taste way better if you make it from scratch though. Here’s a recipe if you want to try it out – just remember, Swedish gingerbread cookies are supposed to be thin!

All you need to make your own gingerbread cookies!

If you can, make your own dough! Otherwise, you’ll find this one at IKEA.


Homemade gingerbread cookies, yummy!

Make your gingerbread cookies thin if you want them done the Swedish way!

I also think you should try the Christmas food in the country you’re visiting, it’s exciting and educational! So far we’ve had turkey – something that’s not usual at Christmas in Sweden.

Christmas lights

If you’re celebrating Christmas as a backpacker, make sure to know about free events! I love Christmas lights and as you know, we actually did pay to visit Zoolighs – which honestly was worth it, especially if you think about everything that’s included. However, there are free options too! Depending on where in the world you are at the moment, you might even just have to step outside to see them. We do sadly not have any Christmas lights in our neighbourhood, but just a few blocks away from where I work there’s a big park filled with Christmas lights! If you’re in Calgary, make sure to check out Confederation Park. It starts at 6pm every evening until the beginning of January. You can find more information here.

You can also light up your room! Fredrik gave me a glowing snowman, the one you see in front of the cactus in the third picture, that shifts between blue and red – it does more fore the Christmas feeling than you think!

Christmas as a backpacker doesn't have to be boring - even going to the mall can be fun!

This is at the CORE, a mall in downtown Calgary. We were lucky to visit while there was a beautiful music performance!

Celebrate Christmas as a backpacker – with others

Celebrate with others! Especially if you’re travelling and don’t know that many people. If you get the chance to celebrate with someone, take it! Shortly, in most cases, I’m a yes-sayer when I’m travelling. Ask what other people will do for Christmas, and you might get an invite. We’re invited to one of my co-workers on Christmas Eve to celebrate like the Canadians – exciting!

Participate in happenings

Just like you should accept a possible invite for celebrating Christmas, the same thinking applies to being invited to happenings! I guess we’ve been lucky since I’m working with people who are very including and at a workplace that has several happenings. Fredrik and I have already been to a Christmas dinner with all of my co-workers and I’m participating in “Secret Santa” at work! Walking around in the mall to buy something to someone I don’t really know has been more fun than I thought. We’ve also been to a Christmas party at our landlord’s (one floor up from where we live) where we got to meet all her friends and try their Christmas food!

Look what I got from my Secret Santa!

This is the gift I got from my Secret Santa!


Christmas gifts from my Secret Santa.

When I opened it, I found even more gifts!

Wherever you are, I hope you get into the Christmas Spirit if you feel like it’s still missing. If you’re celebrating Christmas as a backpacker away from home, maybe even for the first time during the Holidays, we’re in the same boat – hopefully some of my tips will help you!

Backpacker or not, wherever you are – Merry Christmas!