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OIT celebrating thanksgiving away from family article

Celebrating Thanksgiving Away From Family

I think any service member or spouse can tell you that one of the hardest parts of being a military family is being away from your extended family for major events, such as holidays. Although military life affords us the opportunity to travel and live in distant corners of the world, we often find ourselves missing out on time with our extended families. Due to the traditions that go along with Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah, these holidays can be especially hard on your own.


In the past, celebrating with family was never an issue.

We had always been stationed close enough to family to be able to fly for relatively cheap or drive down for the long Thanksgiving weekends. Not only is driving no longer an option (considering we live in the middle of the Pacific Ocean), but plane tickets would literally cost a fortune. And that’s a fortune that we don’t have, considering gifts will need to be purchased shortly thereafter.

It takes some adjustment, but there are certainly ways to feel like you’re close to family when celebrating the holidays this year. From sharing familiar dishes to spending time with good friends, there are several ways to close the distance between yourself and your family during the holiday season.

Do you know those sugar cookies that Grandma always used to make for you and your cousins to decorate on Thanksgiving while she and all the other moms were cooking? See if she can make a batch early this year and have them shipped to you. Food is one of those items that can instantly take me back to a moment and relive those memories for me.


Along with the food items that I crave…

I’ve also had my mom ship me décor items that you simply can’t get when you’re OCONUS. I know your overseas families feel me on this one! Last year my mom sent a Thanksgiving care package and included those cute little pilgrim salt and pepper shakers than always donned our table for Thanksgiving dinner.


If the dishes you crave most can’t be shipped, ask for the recipe!

My mom makes the most amazing mashed potatoes ever! EVER. We also have a friend from a previous duty station that makes this fantastic squash soup. If he could box it up, I’d eat it! It’s instances like this where I try I try to recreate the dishes myself. Obviously it’ll never turn out like Mom’s, but you can try to get close and at least pretend like you have Mom’s home-cooked, twice-baked, parmesan cheddar potatoes on the table.

We’ve been lucky enough to find ourselves a little “Army family” at each duty station. These guys have become like the next best thing (no offense) to our actual family. Nowadays, it doesn’t feel like holiday celebrations would be complete without them! To help fill the void left when family isn’t available, consider adopting a local family of your own or even just try inviting some single service member over to join you for your meal and celebrations.


Finally, what would a military family be without Skype?!

From training and TDYs to deployments, most military families have become extremely comfortable with using Skype to close the distance between themselves and loved ones. To help fill the void of missing family members, try a video call to include each other in your holiday festivities. Not only will you be able to feel like you’ve brought the long-distance family into your home, but you’ll be able to feel like you’re partaking in the activities that they have going on.