Holiday traditions, at home and abroad

As I sit typing this, I can see my naked Christmas tree shivering on the balcony waiting to come inside and be dressed up for its big day. The big day for the tree is of course Christmas day, but before that it has to endure that one big day of preparation, where things will undoubtedly culminate into one mass of decorating, arguing and panic.

After this you may finally settle down in front of the twinkle of holiday lights, enjoy a traditional holiday movie or three and maybe some egg nog. This story repeats itself in households all over the world each year regardless of where you live, or where in the world you are stationed.

The holiday seasons are now as unfamiliar to me as yours may be to you. Traditionally in the United Kingdom, I would spend Christmas with those closest to me. It was always a low key, lazy affair with too much television and much too much food.
When I moved abroad about three years ago, it marked a change in how my holidays would work. Now, it can be a very stressful, expensive affair, booking flights back to the UK, sorting out hotels and buying gifts for family both home and abroad. It is much how I imagine the holidays could be working out for you.

My wife always had very traditional holidays and each year she tries to add even more elaborate things to our holidays that will form the basis of our own traditions. This year, for instance, she has purchased us matching, bright red, Christmas onesies embroidered with our initials to wear throughout the season. Which, actually, I am wearing right now as I write this. I won’t lie — it may be the most comfortable thing I have ever owned — but there will never be any pictures of myself in this onesie. For the most part I humor her festive spirit because I see that we are building our own traditions to share in the future.

Living away from home and family at this time of year can be tough; many of us will be celebrating the holidays with our most immediate family here in Wiesbaden. Some people are fortunate enough to go back to the states to their larger families, some have no choice about going home and will spend their holidays in Germany without any of the familiarity and traditions this time of year would normally bring.

It is the season where our organizations, which year round bring familiarity, fun and opportunity, matter more than ever. Organizations such as the USO, MWR, ACS and so many others bring festive fun, community and spirit at this time of year. The USO Winterfest that just took place gave out holiday trees and food, while featuring Santa, music and more. Each year the USO also put on the Single Service Members dinner, this dinner — funded by the USO — is cooked by volunteers like you, helping out their extended family here in Germany.

Holiday traditions that we grew up with are important to our sense of identity about how Christmas should be, but being in U.S. Army Europe might allow you to make some new traditions, maybe volunteering, helping out a single service member or others that can’t be at home this holiday season.

However you are spending your holidays, I hope those of you that didn’t get the exact holiday you wanted are able to make some new traditions this year.

From me to you, have a wonderful holiday period and I’ll be back on air Jan. 4.