The holiday session is full of traditions, exciting experiences and cheer! It’s a great time to host and create memories with an international student. You can share our diverse Canadian culture and holiday traditions (and learn about their traditions, too). 

How will you be spending the holidays with your family and student? Here are some great ideas to get you started:

Visit a holiday market

No matter where you live, holiday markets abound this time of year! Holiday markets make a great outing for you and your international student. These markets are usually diverse and include holiday traditions and gifts from many different cultures in one place. Encourage your student to try something new at a holiday market or pick up gifts for their family back home. 

Make a day of it and consider taking public transit to the markets, as parking is usually tricky. 

Eat traditional foods

So many families mention food as a memorable holiday experience. Introduce your student to your traditional holiday foods and drinks. Ask if they can share something from their culture. 

If you’ve connected with other host families in your neighbourhood, get them all together for an international potluck of goodies, where everyone brings their favourite holiday food, drink, or treat.  

Bake sweet treats together

Tasting new foods is great…but the memories of learning how to make them will last a lifetime. Sometimes, traditional recipes are a bit more complicated than you can understand in a written recipe or even from a YouTube Video. Being hands-on and showing your student how to make your favourite foods may be more helpful. 

Make it a weekly event in December where you gather as a family and everyone pitches in, assembly line style, to create amazing foods and try new recipes together. 

Make gingerbread houses

If your family and students love a little friendly competition, why not get some gingerbread house kits and have a competition? Bring an assortment of goodies and icing to decorate with, and give out prizes for the most unique, colourful, realistic, or most tasty-looking gingerbread houses. 

Explore the Holiday lights

In Canada, the light displays in our neighbourhoods are remarkable. Some people go all out with their light and yard displays at Christmas. Look up some neighbourhoods in your community with above-and-beyond displays and go for a walk or drive through them with your family. 

Your community also likely has public light displays in parks and other places. Bring some hot cocoa and some of those fantastic traditional baked goods you’ve made, and marvel at the holiday displays in your community. 

(Many holiday light displays ask for a donation to a local charity, so please give generously if you can.)

Make a craft 

Another fun holiday activity is to try a local craft or art together. There may be a traditional weaving class nearby or a ceramics or painting class you can take. Being hands-on and creating at Christmas generates cherished memories and gives you a souvenir that you can display in your home or give as a holiday gift. 

Ask your student what craft or classes they may be interested in and make it a family activity this holiday season. 

Pick a Christmas tree

Are you team “Live” or “Artificial?” If you get a live Christmas tree, bring the student to help pick one out. There are so many local Christmas tree farms, and many collect donations in exchange for their trees. Again, bundle up before going out and don’t forget your Thermos of hot cocoa to keep you warm. 

Play in the snow

If it snows at your home this time of year, why not take your international student to play in the snow and go tobogganing? Some may never have seen snow before, so it would be a very memorable experience. For those who already know snow sports, take them to a local ski hill or resort for more snow fun!

Play games

Another favourite Canadian pastime for many families is playing games during the Holidays. Make this another weekly family night, and pick a new game every night. Try different board, dice, and card games each time. 

Go to the movies

With the kids off for winter break in late December, it might be a great time to take them to the movies with their friends. There are often many great movies playing—splurge on popcorn (or some healthier treats brought from home). Get reservations at your favourite family restaurant for after the movie. 

Go Holiday shopping

With the stores all decked out for the holidays, shopping feels more festive. Whether you’re window shopping or shopping for holiday gifts (or something for yourself), take your student to a shopping spot outside their regular community. You can make a day of it and go for lunch, see a movie, or explore the neighbourhood. 

One last thing to remember about the holiday season…

Remember, your student may experience heightened homesickness during the holidays. For most, it may be their first Holiday season away from their family, and their emotions may be a bit high. Don’t push them into activities they don’t want to do. Follow their lead to ensure they’re comfortable during the holidays. 

Also, do your best to focus on a cultural exchange during the holidays. While you should be sharing your holiday traditions with the student, invite them to share their traditions with you, too. They’ll also feel honoured that you want to learn about their culture and family!

Thinking about becoming a host family? The application process can take a bit of time so apply today to start creating new and cherished memories for your family and an international student.

Not quite ready to apply? Learn more here.

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