It’s our first Christmas in Germany.
The markets, decorations and traditional fanfare put us the holiday spirit – not to mention the glühwein. Yet there is something that feels, well, a little different.
We’ve lived hundreds of miles from our families for the past decade. We’re used to missing out on birthday parties, summer picnics and even first Communions and graduations.
But, other than the years our daughters were born, we always piled in the car and took the 12-hour drive to Illinois for Christmas. This year, being more than an ocean away, we’re celebrating solo. Kind of…
Americans are Abundant in Germany
Thousands of Americans are stationed in the Wiesbaden area. Army and Air Force bases populate the country in all directions so we are by no means alone in Germany.
Our girls attend American schools on base. The USO and MWR provide a lot of opportunities to gather and celebrate traditional American holidays. So while we may not celebrate holidays with our relatives, we often celebrate together.
We’re off-post for housing, but the neighbor kids welcomed our girls to the area with playing in their pools and on their trampolines within days of moving in. Their parents offer us tips on which festivals are worth traveling to, and there is always some kind of festival happening, and which are not.
We joined PTAs, spouses clubs, churches, sports and Girl Scouts. We’re active and busy with a mix of American and German groups. We enjoy sitting in the stands with other parents recording soccer games or school concerts so Stateside family can see our children perform. Even when we wish they could be here live.
Surrogate Families are Mandatory for Survival
There are certainly things we miss about living in the States, but the travel and cultural opportunities make up for the lack of Target stores or Chick fil A restaurants.
Most Germans speak English, even if they say it’s only a little bit. They are friendly and helpful when we politely ask for assistance and butcher their language in attempts to blend in. In my defense, good night and good naked are only separated by a hard phlegm ‘ch’ sound.
We’ve been lucky in finding amazing friends as we all try to assimilate to our new homes. The trifecta in parenting – when you, your spouse and your kids all get along with another family – isn’t very common. Lightening hit us multiple times.
Much like our time in DC, these groups of coworkers, spouses and neighbors become our surrogate families for the duration of our assignment. These surrogates carry us through the homesickness, share the holidays and celebrate the milestones with us. Without them, we’d be very lonely.
Opening Our Doors
A few of our voyaging friends and family dusted off their passports over the summer and some continue to book trips in the coming years. We’re thrilled to have a home that accommodates multiple visitors and hope some will consider joining us for Christmas.
A few years ago my husband would never elect to host a holiday event. It was enough of a challenge convincing him to attend the numerous events we shared with family. Yet, this year, he was the driving force of hosting our holiday gathering.
Being a part of the military/federal community means opening your doors to friends and families who are transitioning and adjusting. You are never the ‘new’ kid on block for long and there is always room for one more at the table for any event.
So even though thousands of military and civilian families spend holidays away from their blood relatives, we band together and make a family from what was once a group of strangers.