Meanwhile, just to make this a little bit easier, the link to my last "weekly special," this one on the FS Oral Assessment, is here. Two regular commenters here, both of them FSOs (I think) have already added their welcome input, which is also worth your time.
Christmas in the Foreign Service isn't all that different from some of those I spent in the military (aside from the wartime deployment); you're far from most of your family (except for those family members you brought with you), lots of folks go on leave which increases the load on those remaining, and the locals exhibit what seem to Americans to be odd customs this time of year. But it can be fun, as you band together and re-create your FS family, inviting singles and couples to dinners and other gatherings. Church communities take on a special significance during the holidays as well.
Consul- and Madam At-Arms have already gotten together with many of our friends here at post and will be continuing the "social whirl" tomorrow as we host a Christmas Day dinner for a number of our friends and colleagues. The turkey is almost too big for the somewhat smallish European oven in which it will spend hours cooking tomorrow. People are bringing lots of their favorite side dishes; Madam-At-Arms is officially exhausted and has gone early to bed, having baked two pies for tomorrow's dinner.
Lots of people, in uniform and out, are spending their Christmas holidays, as they do many of their holidays throughout the year, far from most of their family and friends, in the service of the Republic. I remember telling Madam-At-Arms by e-mail this time of year in 2003, when I was in Iraq, that at least I'd get to celebrate the holiday with a lot of my closest heavily-armed friends. Somewhat amended, that's as true today as it was then. Your colleagues and their families, living as you do in the Service, become like family to you as well. It's not that your real family becomes any less important to you, and you miss them terribly at times, but the circle of your family gets just a bit wider to encompass those who share your work, your dedication, and your day-to-day triumphs and challenges.
To any of my wider family, in uniform or out, reading this wherever you find yourself this holiday season, I send my warmest personal regards and affection.