Christmas 2008, my friend and I took our kids out to the local Christmas Market. We lived in a small village and even they had a small Christmas market. I love Germany during the Christmas season. They go big. Every town square is decorated. Most towns and villages have their own Christmas markets and you can tell the whole country is ready to celebrate.
We spent 4 holiday seasons in Germany and each one was so magical. If you are lucky enough to be overseas for the holidays, take advantage of what is going on around you. Once you move back to the states you will no longer be surrounded by the culture. You want to take advantage of that experience.
So what should you do when you are overseas for the holidays? Here are some ideas!
Visit Local Events
Whether you visit the Christmas markets in Germany or the light displays in South Korea, be a part of the culture and embrace what the country does to celebrate. You will make fun memories and have a lot of good stories to tell people back home about your holiday experiences in another country. Sometimes your military installation will also have events based on where you live. See what is going on and what you can be a part of. Remember, people in the US pay a lot of money to visit these same places during this time of year. You are already there, embrace what your host country has to offer.
Adopt a New Tradition
Learn a new tradition that will work for your family that you can take back home with you. For example, St. Nicholas Day. This is celebrated on December 6 in Germany. Children leave out their shoes and St. Nicholas will come by during the night and fill them with goodies. You also will get a chance to meet St. Nicholas around German towns and villages. If you happen to be able to be stationed in more than one overseas location, you can turn your own family’s holiday season into a mix of traditions you have picked up from all the places you have lived.
Think Outside the Box
Sometimes you are going to have to think outside the box when you are overseas for the holidays. If your Christmas day has always included making a big turkey but your overseas apartment doesn’t have a big enough oven to cook one, think about what else you can do. Why not make a traditional holiday meal based on what the locals eat? Or, invite your neighbors over for a potluck asking them to bring their favorite dishes. If it seems weird to do the holidays differently, just think of the changes as a new experience and one you won’t be able to have later on down the road when you are back in the states.
Take Photos and Share
Take a lot of pictures of your holiday and what you did to celebrate while you are overseas. Family and friends back home would love to see what you did that was different from what they do back home. You could also make a special scrapbook about your holidays overseas. One that you can look back at years in the future or share with your children who might not have remembered those years.
Even if you do go home for Christmas, see what holidays traditions you can take part of before you leave. Embrace your tempory country and learn from the people who call the country home. Enjoy the holiday season and make new memories with your family and new friends.