One of the main challenges of being a military family (especially overseas) is finding new ways to celebrate holidays, which normally includes family gatherings. Being in Europe has definitely given us fantastic opportunities to experience Christmas in different cultures (we spent last year’s Christmas in Paris!), though the Hubby and myself can’t help but feel a bit lost without our normal family traditions.
Before we moved to Germany, we’d spent the last Saturday before Christmas at an annual family gathering on Hubby’s mom’s side of the family. This is a BIG family; so large in fact that every year the party is held in a high school gym and recreational center! Lots of food, white elephant gift exchanges, book trading, and time with Santa would fill the day. Then on Christmas Eve, we’d celebrate with the father in law’s family; not nearly as many people, but still boisterous and fun. Many times, Hubby and I would then spend late Christmas Eve with my parents and open gifts with them the next day. My dad, who is a wonderful pianist and organist, would ask me to sing for the morning service at church, and I would usually sing either “O Holy Night” or “Ave Maria” as a tribute to my late mother who always sang those classics.
The Hubby and I haven’t quite created our own traditions yet. We’re still in the first few years of married life together, so every year since we moved has been a bit different in what we do. One thing that we do is make calls home to family, to wish them well and see if they like their gifts. Though hearing their voices is wonderful, there is nothing like seeing faces light up in surprise, or feeling the warm embrace of a “thank you.” It is a bit bittersweet.
With every passing year, I find that Time is the best gift anyone could have or receive. It is fleeting, hard to get, and priceless. Some people may find family gatherings cumbersome or obligatory, which is understandable. However, once that chance to gather is gone, it cannot come back or be replaced.
I hope in the next couple of years, the Hubby and I will be able go home during the holidays and revisit those traditions. I miss my father’s playing of classic carols on the piano, the mounds of paper to clean up after gifts, the silliness of our niece and nephew, the excited chatter of family.
Here’s to a wonderful holiday to all – be it Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa.