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Celebrating the Holidays at an Overseas Duty Station

The chance to live overseas together is an exciting opportunity for military 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 local holidays.

To create a warm holiday feeling when you’re stationed overseas and living in another culture, plan ahead and be open to celebrating in new ways with new people.

  • 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. 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 delivery restrictions.
  • Make your own tree. Buy a native tree or shrub, or make your own tree out of papier-mâché, felt or wire. Decorate with those made-with-love ornaments you brought with you, or make or buy new ones after browsing local shops.
  • Create your holiday meal. Make a Passover Seder, a Christmas dinner or a sundown feast during Ramadan, but prepare to improvise — all your favorite, traditional ingredients might not be available.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Learn about holiday traditions in your host country. Check out your installation for programs about local traditions or search the internet for online resources about your host country. Check out CultureGrams on the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library for cultural information on more than 200 countries.
  • 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.

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 Pre-Deployment, Deployment, and Reunion and Reintegration to find the information most relevant to your situation.

Expanding your holiday traditions is a great way to connect with your new community and home overseas. Visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS 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. The Plan My Deployment tool is another great resource to help you master the holidays during a deployment.

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