Alone, But Not Lonely, for the Holidays

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.

3 Life Lessons from TV Christmas Movies

My name is Melissa and I love Hallmark Christmas movies.

With more than 85 million people planning to tune in this season, I’m not alone.

I still love my Discovery ID, Dateline and 20/20 shows. But every once in a while, I need a break from these gruesome stories of what damage people do to each other.

Sometimes, I need a character named Holly to ditch her CEO fiancé for a guy in a flannel that sells Christmas trees in a small town.

Sometimes I need a movie that highlights love, compassion and a little faith.

Yes, they are predictable and have similar plot lines. But each also offers some life lessons that can benefit us all.

Slow  Down

We’re all busy. We maintain schedules and appointments with a little time for spontaneity. Even when we get the change for free time, we’re online or taking pictures of the moment rather than being fully present in it.

The holiday season is meant to be spent with those you care about. Virtually every Hallmark Christmas movie includes at least one character attached to their phone and shouting orders to those around them.

That same character inevitably stops by, or gets stranded in, a small town with people who hug more than they Tweet. A place where townsfolk sit around a coffee shop and talk to each other rather than type a status update.

By the end of the 120 minutes, the wound-up city slicker learns to ditch the attachment to technology, fall in love with a local, slowdown and connect with those around them.

Yeah, it’s a movie. But it does remind us to not let life’s distractions come between us and those we love. It doesn’t hurt to be in idyllic surroundings with townspeople singing carols.

Be True to Yourself

We’re spread thin. Self-care is something many talk about, but few actually do.

Some of us stay in jobs or continue relationships when we know they are not benefiting us or bringing us joy. We plug along these paths because it’s easier than shaking things up by going for what we want.

In these beloved movies, at least one character hesitates to jump into what will bring them personal joy. A new job, romance or conversation that could change the course of their life – there is always that back and forth internal monologue that holds the character back.

Fear not! About halfway through the movie, the character wakes up and realizes they cannot hold back anymore and they take the plunge. Often, with great success. Sometimes even on Christmas Eve when the snow begins to fall.

Being everything to everyone is exhausting. Be sure you are doing at least one thing you love every day – like watching hokey movies. Life’s too short to not be yourself.

Believe in Miracles

Christmas celebrates the ultimate miracle.

During our busy lives we often fail to see the little miracles that appear before us. We miss the opportunity to play a part in being someone’s miracle.

So many of these holiday movies showcase the greater good within each of us. They also give hints to the good that surrounds us, in ways we don’t always see or expect.

Whether a holiday movie is a blockbuster on the big screen or a romantic television production, there is a moment when good intervenes and story’s outcome fills viewers with the sense that miracles can happen.

You’re right, these movies don’t imitate real life. They are overly optimistic and a little cheesy. They are hopeful and heartwarming. They make us believe there is good in everyone.

Wouldn’t it be a miracle if we could live like that everyday?

 

Share your favorite holiday movie! Here’s the full list of new Hallmark Christmas Movies.