It’s beginning to look a lot like we aren’t going to make it home for the holidays — that’s the only tradition that’s stuck after eight years as a Marine spouse. For a girl who only knew family-packed occasions, lonely military holidays sound like the stuff sappy, holiday TV specials are made of.
But, it’s like that time you got orders to that place you’d never heard of and would like to forget or that bonus month of deployment you earned for being so very good at it. The nontraditional holidays that the military re-gifts every year are what you make them. We can sulk or we can reinvent our holidays. I choose the latter, and I haven’t once been disappointed.
If you’re looking for holiday inspiration, here are some military holiday customs my family has adopted.
Picture you and your closest friends from the last six months gathered around the table. Plan to watch classic holiday movies, eat traditional food, and go on shopping trips. You get bonus points for inviting a new arrival or including someone you know who will also be sticking around for the holidays. During my husband’s first deployment, I had a pack. We did everything together, holidays included.
Pick a holiday dish that you can’t live without and bring enough to share. If you live in base housing, then you’re in the perfect potluck environment. Last Thanksgiving, we gathered around a park picnic table with our neighbors. It was the best way to get the whole spread without cooking the entire thing for two adults and two picky little eaters.
Hit the road for the holidays. Now that I have a school-age child, I’m realizing these big breaks from school are prime travel time, so planning a holiday trip seems logical. Not to mention that the scenery is a welcomed change from our circa 1950s base housing. Pick a spot on the map, and make some plans!
Make giving back a holiday tradition. A couple of years ago, I caught myself (and my kids) pouting about all the things WE wanted for the holidays — gifts, traditions, etc. Now we make a point to give back. By filling our days with good deeds, it’s a little easier to ignore the homesick holiday blues.
When it’s an option, technology — namely video chat – is a great way to connect with family back home or service members overseas. You might be a military family if you’ve ever watched someone unwrap gifts via video chat. I carried the laptop all around the living room for my son’s first Christmas so my deployed husband could be a part of it all.
Pack up dinner and make a delivery. If you haven’t had room-temperature turkey and sides in the ready room, you haven’t lived! OK, so it’s about as glamorous as it sounds. But, the reality of military service is that eventually your service member will have to stand duty on a holiday.
“Be” where you are
Check your installation and local community for festive events in your area. Above all, remember to make the most of whatever situation you’re in this season, because it’s likely that you won’t have another holiday quite like this one. That’s a tradition you can count on!