The Foreign Service Journal, June 2003

or a Foreign Service child, the old adage “the only constant is change” truly applies. One bastion of stability in an FS child’s life, and sometimes the only one, is his or her family and their traditions. Foreign service families cel- ebrate a plethora of holidays — American and foreign — and many assimilate traditions as they move around the world. But despite this, it is the celebration itself, a time spent with one’s family, home from school, that can provide an emotional oasis in a childhood lived overseas. For FS children, holidays and celebrations are not particularly wedded to specific dates and sea- sons. And even the idea of what constitutes a holiday is flexible. The most common holidays are New Year’s and Christmas. Others include Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving and birthdays. Of these, the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving are the two most traditionally American holidays. FS kids are perhaps more lenient in their expectations of these occasions, given that the opportunities to celebrate them in a foreign country are necessarily limited. So for FS children, such holidays are mainly occasions involving informal gatherings with their families for big meals. Indeed for some, what makes holidays distinctly “American” are the customs and recipes that are passed down from one generation to another. Alexandra, the child of an FSO and an Austrian moth- er, who has lived in Bonn, Tangier, Casablanca, Arlington, Beirut, Munich and Brussels, remembers celebrating holidays overseas and in the U.S. as a cultural smorgas- bord. From her American grandmother, she inherited a book of traditional Lutheran recipes and her aluminum Swedish meatball pan. From her Salzburger Omi (grand- mother), she has a coveted collection of Austrian recipes from marillen knoedel (apricot dumplings) to buchtel (a prune- filled pastry). Her most vivid memory is of Christmas, a holiday that is cele- brated in Austria from the begin- ning of the Advent season, usual- ly the first Sunday in December. “My mother made a big fuss over decorating for Christmas. First, she glued cotton balls to simulate snow on our bedroom windows in Casablanca. These windows looked out onto palm, lemon and mimosa trees which were, of course, never covered with snow! On Dec. 1, we received a calendar to count down the days until Christmas, 24 days exactly.” “On Dec. 6, we celebrated St. Nikolaus Day at home. Once, my parents asked a friend from the Austrian con- sulate, Mr. Auer, to dress up as St. Nikolaus and knock on our door. The sight of St. Nick was awesome! We were amazed that he really appeared at our house and left shoes filled with Moroccan tangerines and walnuts.” Mikkela Thompson is the Journal ’s business manager. F C HRISTMAS IN J ULY : H OLIDAYS A S A F OREIGN S ERVICE C HILD A CHILD RAISED IN THE F OREIGN S ERVICE CAN RETAIN A SENSE OF TRADITION AND ALSO APPRECIATE NEW AND DIVERSE CULTURES , INCLUDING THEIR HOLIDAYS . B Y M IKKELA T HOMPSON For FS children, holidays and celebrations are not particularly wedded to specific dates and seasons. And even the idea of what constitutes a holiday is flexible. Continued on page 64 62 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U N E 2 0 0 3 S CHOOLS S UPPLEMENT