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    Make the Holidays Your Own at an Overseas Duty Station

    Spending the holidays away from family isn’t uncommon for military families. While many of us journey home from time to time, dare I say, most Christmases are spent away from our families. And if you move OCONUS, the distance and airfare decrease the likelihood of traveling home.

    If you’ve lived overseas before, you’re no stranger to the challenges (and joys) associated with living in a different country. However, one of the greatest obstacles is feeling connected to family, and, as you know, the holiday season sometimes accentuates the emotional ache. Add the layer of festive disconnect, and you’ll realize that the holidays aren’t celebrated the same everywhere.

    So what do you do?

    make the holidays your own while living overseas

    1) Put your favorite traditions to test.

    It might not feel like the holidays to you. Depending on where you grew up, you may associate the season with snow, kids sledding, and evergreens looking absolutely radiant, but it’s not like that everywhere. We’re stationed in Okinawa right now, and before that, we were in Hawaii. Neither location provided a picturesque Christmas. Instead, the sun shines bright and hot, the palm trees replace the evergreens, and locals sneak in a surf or a quick dive before Christmas dinner. Japan doesn’t observe Christmas like America. In Okinawa, you can find some fun decorations at Daiso and Don Quiote, but the locals don’t stop or close businesses in observance like America. 

    You may not always live in an area that fosters your traditional holiday festivities, but you can certainly keep the traditions that are important to you. In a place where there are no real Christmas trees in sight, put up several. If the temp is 80 degrees, crank down the air conditioner, throw on your favorite sweater, and light a Balsam & Cedar scented candle. Does it feel silly? Maybe, but I guarantee you’ll get a serotonin boost.

    2) Lean on your military community.

    friends eating holiday dinnerPhoto from Canva 

    Think about how many military families are stationed overseas with you. You might not be driving through a light display coordinated to Christmas music, but you’re not alone in your feelings. Use the military community to your advantage and embrace it! 

    Gather your friends that have become family and put together a holiday feast. Laura says,

    “My favorite holiday was in Guam. My good friend had 30 people over to her home. While some were military families, others were island locals. It was such a big, fun, yummy dinner where everyone brought their special dish to the table. I will always be thankful for that memory!"

    3) Try something new.

     Learn about the culture where you live! Christmas looks different everywhere you go. German Christmas markets, the KFC Christmas Eve dinner, and Japanese Christmas Cake are just a few overseas traditions you can adopt and make your own. 

    Jan says,

    “When we got married, we decided to make our own tradition. We would go skiing the week before Christmas, then spend Christmas day with our friends (our family away from home). Although we don't ski any more, I love going to the mountain and experiencing the magic! Travel, explore, be curious, enjoy new things (food, culture, etc.), and do something you never thought you could or would doa gift of living OCONUS!"

    4) Travel!

    view from plane window

    Photo from Canva 

    The number one thing to do when stationed OCONUS during the holidays is travel. Without a doubt, it’s much easier to visit new places and explore when you’re already overseas and without family nearby, you can do so guilt-free! While airfare might increase right over Christmas, the week before often proves more budget friendly. 

    I know spouses who’ve spent the holidays in the Philippines, Australia, NYE in Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, London, and France—that’s the beauty of being stationed overseas!

    While traveling may not be your tradition, it's a great way to embrace the opportunity that lies before you. There are many years for traditional holidays with family ahead.

    As you prepare for your holiday overseas, embrace the differences as you make once-in-a-lifetime memories!

    Bloom Where PCS Plants You E-book

    Danielle Keech


    Danielle Keech

    Danielle Keech is a writer and content creator for MilitaryByOwner Advertising. She writes on military life topics, highlights clients’ open houses on social media, and manages the Military PCS Facebook group. She especially enjoys covering financial topics and helping military families exercise financial responsibility and plan for the future. Danielle has been a Marine Corps spouse for ten years (and counting!) and is a momma to four littles and one fur baby. She and her pilot spouse have lived in Virginia, Florida, Texas, California, Hawaii, and, most recently, Okinawa, Japan. And yes, you guessed it, Hawaii is her favorite duty station to date! Find MilitaryByOwner's Millitary PCS group here.

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