Making the Holidays Your Own at an Overseas Duty Station
Throughout your spouse's military career, it's likely that you'll wind up spending a holiday away from extended family. Whether your spouse is deployed or you live overseas, you might spend a holiday unlike anything you've known before.
Living overseas during the holidays can be challenging and maybe even a little sad. However, it is also a wonderful opportunity to experience new adventures. Whether you are a pro at overseas holidays or this is your first...there are some things to keep in mind.
1) Make it your holiday.
It doesn't always feel like the holidays. I live in South Texas right now and because it is 80 degrees outside and I am in shorts and a t-shirt on Thanksgiving, it doesn't feel like my traditional holiday---and I’m still stateside!
When living overseas, you may not always live in an area that fosters your traditional holiday celebration, but it's essential that you keep the traditions that are important to you. You may live in Guam where there are no real Christmas trees in sight, but that is all the more reason to make your home reflect how you want to feel for the holidays. My sister and I crank down the air conditioner so that we can comfortably wear sweaters for a day. Silly? Maybe, but it makes us feel at home.
2) Involve the community.
Realize that you're not the only family missing home. Chances are, most people are also unable to make it home for the holidays or cannot have family visit. Embrace it!
My friend Laura says, “My favorite Thanksgiving was spent in Guam. My good friend Jeanne had 30 people over to her home. Some were military families, while others were families permanently living on Guam. I had never shared dinner with so many people, and it was such a yummy dinner with everyone bringing their special dish to the table. I will always be thankful for that moment!” Fellowship is key to holidays and if you cannot do it with your family, fellowship with the people around you!
3) Try something new.
Learn about the culture where you live. Does that country celebrate the same holidays that you do? Learn how they celebrate. My friend living in Okinawa says, “Our holiday table always has some of our favorite traditional family recipes, but also a few new ones integrating exotic flavors and local ingredients.”
This gives their family the opportunity to better understand the culture they're now a part of. In the same way, the people you meet expose you to new traditions that they were raised with. Capitalize on your opportunity to learn something new and make the people around you feel special by celebrating their own traditions with them.
A flight home may cost more time and money than you can afford over the holidays, but consider traveling more locally to your current duty station. Some friends of mine stationed in Japan traveled to Tokyo this Thanksgiving and spent their holiday at Disneyland. While this may not be your "tradition," it's a great way to embrace the opportunity that lies before you. There will be many more years for traditional holidays with family ahead!
As you prepare for your holiday overseas, remember to enjoy it. Although the scenery is different, it is still your celebration.
Happy holidays to you, and please share your new overseas holiday traditions with us!