christmas market, christmas, frankfurt

celebrating holidays in a foreign country

where will you spend your holidays?

This is a question that you should really think about when you are an au pair. As tempting as it might be to want to go home to be with your family, it is my opinion that spending the holidays (especially Christmas) in your host country is a fantastic opportunity to have a unique experience. Seeing first hand how your host family celebrates the holidays and what traditions they have and participating in them is also a really special time to bond with your host family as well.  

my experience spending Christmas in Germany

One of the things I knew right from the beginning of my au pair year was that I would stay with my host family for Christmas, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I made during my au pair year.


During the Christmas season my host mother took me and my host kid to Nuremburg where one of the most famous Christmas markets in Germany is held. We stayed with friends of theirs and had so much fun! It was the first trip I took with my host family and it was such a great experience. We went to the Christmas market in the afternoon and stayed until it got dark so I could see how it was during the day and also when it was all lit up at night. I had my first ever mug of gluhwein (German mulled wine).

mulled claret, christmas market, nuremberg

I spent the days around Christmas in the town where my host father is from, and where I happened to have a friend. My German friend didn’t live in his hometown anymore as he was studying somewhere else, but because it was Christmas, he was back home for the holidays, and he invited me to go with him to his high school class Christmas reunion. 


We had snacks and of course some gluhwein and I met lots of people my age who lived all over Germany for their studies. While at the party, I exchanged phone numbers and information with quite a few of them who invited me to come visit the towns and cities where they were living for university. I had a great time and because of that one event, I later got to visit so many different places all over Germany that I never would have if I hadn’t gone to the Christmas party. 


On Christmas Eve, we had a wonderful dinner with my host family and my host dad’s mom at her house. We ate delicious food, listened to some traditional German Christmas carols and opened presents. It was such a special occasion and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to experience it.

christmas, table, christmas celebration

different country, different traditions

In our family, we celebrate a mix of traditions. We celebrate Spanish traditions, Canadian traditions and some German traditions. 

One of the German traditions that I first saw when I was an au pair, and that our au pairs have introduced to our kids is the tradition of Nikolaus. On the 5th of December the kids (and adults) leave their boots out by the front door so that Nikolaus can fill them with surprises. On the morning of December 6th, they wake up to find their boots filled with walnuts, mandarins, chocolates and a small toy or two. It is such a fun tradition that our au pairs have continued with our kids over the past few years and which we will definitely continue. 

Los Reyes Magos (the three wise men) is a Spanish tradition that we do with our kids on the 6th of January. In Spain, Santa Claus isn’t as big of a deal as the three wise men. Overnight on January 5th, the three wise men visit all the homes across Spain leaving gifts for all the kids. Before they start delivering the gifts there is always a big parade where they pass through the city greeting all the expectant children. After the parade, the families head home, and the excited kids leave their slippers under the Christmas tree so the wise men know where to leave the gifts for each person. Then (at least in our family) the kids leave some snacks for the wise men and some carrots and water for the camels, and they head to bed to try to get to sleep. The next morning there is lots of excitement when everyone races to the tree to see what the wise men brought for them.

Thanksgiving is a North American holiday that isn’t traditionally celebrated in Spain or Germany, but it is one of my absolute favourite holidays, so I have made a point to try to celebrate it no matter where I am living. In Germany, Carlos and I celebrated it just the two of us, and in Spain I have made dinners for our friends and for our extended family who live here. It always goes over well as most everyone is interested in learning about celebrations from my home country

share your traditions

No matter where you go as an au pair, try to share your favourite holiday traditions with your host family and host kids. Even if your host country celebrates the same holidays as your home country, you can always share with them how you celebrate the holidays with your own family at home. 

Holidays are such a fun way to learn new things about other cultures and who knows, maybe you will like the traditions so much that you will continue them when you go back home.

What do you think?

There are so many other traditional celebrations like Halloween and Carnival that we celebrate as well. I’d love to hear about the traditions you have shared with your host family or that your host family has shared with you. Leave a comment below, send me a message on Instagram or here.

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