Christmas is kind of a big deal in my family. We’ve got pretty large extended families on all sides. No holiday season is complete unless we’ve all gathered together, eaten way too much delicious food, and shared stories from holidays’ past.

Except that for the last three years we haven’t been there to celebrate with our folks.

Okay, yes, we’ve been in Japan, exploring everything Asia has to offer. But knowing just how much awesome is on my doorstep doesn’t stop the ache I feel this time of year.

Stay Connected When You’re Not Going Home for the Holidays

Are you skipping the holidays in your hometown or with your family this year, too?

Over the years, I’ve found tons of great ways to stay connected (if you want to) despite the difference!

Connect Digitally

Thank goodness for video calls, am I right? We visit often with our stateside family thanks to the magic of FaceTime and Skype. I’m sure this holiday season will also feature a ton of video calls with the grandparents, plus extended family.

In the lead up to the major celebrations, plan out ways to connect with your folks.

You could set up a specific time to call. Or you could wing it, randomly calling when the mood strikes and time zones line up.

One great idea is to “invite” yourself into the family celebrations through a virtual connection. Or to welcome your far away loved ones into your home for big moments.

Cook Together Wherever You Are

The holidays, for me, always mean meatballs in homemade sauce. No, we’re not Italian. But a giant vat of meatballs just feels like Christmas.

No matter who makes this particular dish, we always follow one standard recipe perfected by my grandfather. Over the years, we’ve made a few tweaks and subbed in gluten-free breadcrumbs. Somehow the basic taste has stayed mostly the same.

This year, I’m planning to make meatballs via FaceTime with my mom. I’ll be cooking up my batch in the morning while she starts hers at night.

Keep Traditions Going

Crisp brown Moravian cookies covered in sticky sweet sugar icing was a regular feature during the holidays as a child. They tasted a little magical and special, like Christmas in the palm of my hand. I cannot imagine a holiday season without them.

So this weekend, I’ll be whipping up a few dozen (or so) with my kids. They love using the cookie cutters to make their own special cookies. Even better is the chance to lick the icing spoon later!

It’s just one small tradition that I love to keep going during Christmas. Making the same cookies I ate as a kid with my own children is incredibly special. They already know that the holidays have truly arrived when we pull out the ingredients for these cookies!

Unwrap LIVE

What if you unwrapped presents all together with your family? Not just the people in your actual house either. We’re talking the parent that’s deployed, the grandparents in Michigan, or the cool aunt vacationing in Hawaii.

Okay, so time zones might make this tricky, especially if you are coordinating a few different locations. However, nothing beats sharing the magic of Christmas morning with those you love most around the world.

This is something we try to do with my family. It’s technically Christmas Eve for them on the East Coast, but my kids are up early enough in Japan that the timing works out well. My parents get to watch their grandkids unwrap their presents and start their celebrations a little early, too.

Fill Your Home with Seasonal Scents

Growing up in New England, my holidays were filled with fresh cut firs, crackling fires, and lots of snow. It doesn’t smell quite the same in Okinawa. More like balmy breezes, salt from the ocean, and new tropical flowers.

But my house can still smell like my Christmas memories! I love to use scented max melts and candles to bring a New England Christmas to life. Somedays we’ll use cozy cinnamon or bright peppermint. Other days we go straight into the woods with a smoky pine scented candle.

You can also find candles that claim to smell like your home state. I’ve not tried the Massachusetts candle, so no word on whether it really smells like the Charles River on a hot summer day.

Create Your Own Family

Of all the many adventures and experiences military life has brought us, celebrating the holidays with our family of friends is my favorite!

Every year, we round up our nearest and dearest military friends for a giant potluck. In Japan, we’ve added the excitement of bounce houses to the mix. You know, for the kids.

We don’t usually exchange gifts, but do share yummy potluck foods and great drinks together. This year, KFC chicken is on the menu alongside the traditional turkey, ham, and smoked brisket!

How do you make the holidays special when you can’t get home to your family?



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