How to enjoy the holidays, even if you’re away from family
Being a military wife, I am no stranger to spending the holidays alone or without family. Typically, we have military families around where we gather together.
Living abroad over the holidays can bring about different feelings, especially when the country abroad doesn’t celebrate the holiday.
Celebrating the fourth of July has always been a holiday heavily centered around family. Growing up, we always made a big to-do of the 4th; from cooking out, playing baseball, and enjoying the fireworks. Celebrating the 4th of July was very much a tradition.
Germany is an incredible country to celebrate Christmas and can be one of the best places to travel over the holidays. Thanksgiving can also be hard when you have no family during the holidays. Some holidays are harder too celebrate overseas than others. This has probably been one of the hardest challenges of an OCONUS PCS for myself.
Celebrating our First fourth of July in Germany hit differently this year. My husband was away for work, and it was just my toddler and me. We lived a few hours from post, so we could not participate in their activities. It made me feel a bit homesick for the first time living abroad.
Instead of being depressed over the holiday, I actively tried to make the most of it with my toddler. Here are some tips that I have found that have helped me with living abroad over the holidays.
8 Tips: How to enjoy living abroad over the holidays
1. Keep your traditions While spending the holidays abroad
Traditions are so important to me, and they are one of my favorite aspects of holidays! Sharing certain aspects of your childhood with your spouse and friends- carrying the traditions on through your children. I think it’s so special! Spending the holidays abroad can make it a bit more challenging, especially if you have little to no family during the holidays.
- Keep your traditions. Does your spouse have a holiday party at work? Make sure to go, even if work parties aren’t your thing.
- Plan! If you’re big into Halloween, be sure to order costumes ahead of time and think of a creative way of wearing them. Maybe host a Halloween event at your place for your friends.
2. Embrace some of the countries traditions while living abroad over the holidays
Traditions are what you make of them! This can be a great opportunity to establish new and unique ones for your family.
Some holidays are easier than others to celebrate abroad. Christmas is an extraordinary time in Germany, with all the Christmas markets! As I said, Christmas in Germany is one of the best places to travel over the holidays! Add Christmas markets into your traditions while living abroad!
- Check out the advent calendars- they are incredible! You can even get them for your entire family; they have unique calendars appropriate for all ages!
- Participate in the new holidays and traditions. We have really enjoyed experiencing many of the holidays in Germany- especially the Fastnacht celebrations!
3. Get creative
Spending the 4th of July on the German economy was lackluster. Instead of being depressed over the holiday- I made it a goal to find unique ways to celebrate with my toddler. Being in the third trimester of pregnancy and solo parenting, my exhaustion did limit me. However, my goal was to make the day special, keeping the holiday in mind. We spent the day playing outside. We ate barbecue ribs and ice cream and watched some videos of fireworks. Unfortunately, neither one of us could fit into our patriotic clothes. The day is how you make it- make the most of it! Make those unique memories!
- Do some DIY crafts if you have young kids. Color photos- this can also be an educational opportunity for young kiddos.
- Think of ways to incorporate your holidays into your daily schedule.
- Make and eat foods that remind you of the holiday. We picked out blueberries and strawberries to have patriotic-colored fruits with our 4th of July meal. Bake cookies. Have fun in the kitchen with you little ones.
- Look and see if there are neighboring towns or cities that have some celebrations.
4. Celebrate with locals and international friends
Invite friends over for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Make Christmas cookies for your neighbors. This can be a great opportunity to learn about other traditions!
- Related post: How to make friends while living abroad.
5. Stay connected
Spending holidays without family? This can be one of the hardest and loneliest aspects of living abroad. Stay connected! Technology has advanced so much!
- Set up a Skype date
- Take those photos!
- Is your spouse deployed or away for the holiday? Send them a care package to help with any feelings of homesickness.
- Send unique gifts to family and friends from your current country!
- Related post: How to cope with moving away from family
6. Have fun
No matter what you choose to do- have fun! Take in the perspective of living in a new chapter. This is especially important if you have kids. They will feed off your energy. Make your own celebrations!
Traveling is one of my husbands and my favorite hobbies! Living abroad can provide a unique experience of traveling for holidays! If you have the opportunity, I encourage you to take advantage of it!
We had a magical time visiting Europa Park with our toddler over the Christmas months and spent Easter weekend in Rome and the Vatican City on our two-week trip to Italy. If you are military, and preparing for an OCONUS PCS, traveling is one of the biggest benefits of living overseas!
8. Coping with homesickness while living abroad
Don’t forget to account for some self-care over the holidays, and don’t forget to think of yourself! Holidays can be an emotional time, especially when you are away from family and the comforts of home.
Take time for yourself, and do a check-in
Reach out to friends and family if you are having a hard time
Take advantage of these tips to help you enjoy living abroad for the holidays
Spending the holidays abroad can be emotionally difficult, especially if you’re homesick. Think of it as a unique opportunity to enjoy the holidays from a different perspective! Make those memories, take the photos, and enjoy this amazing chapter of your life!
Have you lived abroad over the holidays? How did you adapt to these challenges and enjoy the experience? I would love to hear about your experience living abroad!