8 tips for celebrating the holidays overseas
Being away from home during the holidays can be a challenge, but it’s also a great chance to create new traditions and take part and learn your host country’s holiday customs. Preserve your familiar traditions and explore new ways of celebrating the holidays.
Holidays are special times. To create a warm holiday feeling when you’re stationed overseas and living in another culture, you’ll need to plan ahead and be open to celebrating in new ways with new people. By knowing which familiar holiday traditions you and your family want to preserve and embracing new holiday customs, you can build a lifetime of cherished memories.
Bring holiday keepsakes with you from home. Bring those homemade ornaments your kids made out of macaroni, your favorite holiday photos and cookie cutters, your grandma’s yummy holiday recipes and your fave spirit-of-the-holiday music. With all this stuff, how can you and your loved ones not get the holiday warm and fuzzes?
Shop early. Plan to shop well in advance for holiday supplies and presents. Ordering goodies by mail takes time, so start planning your holiday shopping around mid-October. Order from the Internet, but before you do, check with the postal center or U.S. embassy in your host country to find out about any mail or delivery service restrictions.
Gather together. Plan a potluck dinner with other military families or take advantage of holiday programs through the U.S. embassy, consulate office or American clubs in the area or on the installation.
Create your holiday meal. Make a Passover Seder, a Christmas dinner or a sundown feast during Ramadan, but prepare to improvise, as all the necessary yummy ingredients might not be available.
Make your own tree. Buy a native tree or shrub, or make your own tree out of papier-mâché, felt or wire. Your tree could be as simple as a tree branch, like Charlie Brown’s tree, decorated with those made-with-love, but slightly ugly, ornaments you brought with you.
Include new friends in your celebrations. Invite folks from the host country to share your holiday meal and exchange stories about holiday traditions with each other.
Make a to-do list. Write down what you need to get ready for the holiday so you don’t forget anything.
Learn about holiday traditions in your host country. Check out your installation for programs about local traditions or research the Internet for online resources about your host country.
Reach out. Organize an annual Christmas or Hanukkah party, celebrate with new friends in the local community or support local charities to help people with special needs.
Visit www.militaryinstallations.dod.mil for important contact and services information about your overseas duty station. Also, check with your Military and Family Support Center for information about the host country.