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Celebrating the Holidays at an Overseas Duty Station

Tree lighting ceremony in Japan

The chance to live overseas together is an exciting opportunity for military service member and their families. While the distance might mean that you can’t celebrate every holiday with your extended family, your new community abroad offers a way to liven up old traditions, start new ones and celebrate new holidays.

Here are some tips to help you celebrate the holidays overseas.

  • Bring holiday keepsakes with you from home. Bring those homemade ornaments your kids made from macaroni, your favorite holiday photos and cookie cutters, your grandma’s delicious holiday recipes and your favorite holiday music.
  • Shop early. If you plan to shop online, September or October is not too early to start. Overseas deliveries can take longer. Be sure to read shipping policies closely as not all businesses may ship to APO/FPO addresses and some may charge more in shipping fees to do so. Check with your postal center for more complex questions.
  • Create your holiday meal. Start looking for ingredients well in advance of your holiday meal. Be prepared to look for local substitutions. Don’t be afraid to try the local holiday favorites. With some improvising you may find exciting new takes on your holiday favorites.
  • Gather together. The holidays are a great time to come together and celebrate friendships and traditions. Plan a potluck with other military families or new neighbors. Participate in your unit holiday activities. Set aside time to video chat with your family and friends back home. Join your local community in support of a charity or to help those in need.
  • Learn about holiday traditions in your host country. Check with your local MWR offices such as Tickets and Tours or Outdoor Recreation for availability of trips, tours and other opportunities. Your installation Military and Family Support Center can help you learn more about the local community and may also provide cultural awareness activities.
  • Make a holiday budget. Talk to a personal financial counselor available through your Military Family Support Center. Make a plan to keep you and your family fiscally fit – during the holidays and beyond. If your plan does include travel, take advantage of discounts on airfare, hotels and more through MWR programs such as Check out more tips on how to stay fiscally fit during celebrations in these short articles from the Office of Financial Readiness:
  • Visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS. If you’re looking for more information about your new duty station or community, learn more about how to explore your base and beyond with MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

Expanding your holiday traditions is a great way to connect with your new community and home overseas.

Stay Deployment Strong

If you are stationed overseas and your spouse is deployed, check out the Plan My Deployment tool on Military OneSource for resources to help you stay connected. This tool acts as a how-to guide for valuable tips, resources and articles that will help you and your family prepare for all phases of the deployment cycle. Sort by Predeployment, Deployment, and Reunion and Reintegration to find the information most relevant to your situation.


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