Coming from a very large family, I’m used to being surrounded during the holidays.
I love the romp of people, the background noise and laughter during a card game, and kids running through rooms after each other. The season would be sad and empty if I didn’t have my military friends to create new traditions and memories with.
My husband and I married and moved away a few days before Thanksgiving in 2008. That following Thanksgiving was modest. It was just us and a friend who lived nearby. While I was happy to put on my big girl pants and cook my very first holiday meal by myself, it felt somewhat hollow. I missed my family, the noise, the clutter, the comfort. So we decided to make the five hour drive home for holidays when we could.
When we moved to Okinawa Japan, traveling home for Christmas wasn’t going to be happening, but something else did. During a delayed flight from Seattle, WA to Japan we met our first military friends! Over time, our families grew in size and we grew closer. Our kids became best friends and so did we. And during the holidays it was just understood… Thanksgiving was at their place and Christmas was at ours.
But that wasn’t all. I’d met new friends who missed the traditions they grew up with. We found ways to bring to the table parts of who they were. We had ladies’ get-togethers, cocoa parties, Bunco nights, game nights, pajama parties with the kids, and more.
I was elated! I was so busy enjoying them that I lost thought of the fact that I was forming cords of love with people I hadn’t grown up with. I started to see that these moments would be boulders in my kid’s foundation, and although it wasn’t our blood family that we were celebrating this holiday season with, we had actually created a new family with new traditions.
Here are three things you can focus on for starting your own traditions with friends…
- First, find your friends. A lot of times this does happen organically but you do have to put in some effort. Spark up a conversation with that person in the park. Ease drop when you hear someone is from your city (that’s what we did lol). Basically, don’t be too shy to put yourself out there. We’re military! We dive in head first anyway!
- Find a way to infuse what’s important from your upbringing to what you can do now with each other’s families. Or even create new things you want to try. Our thing became a silly sock Christmas, no shoes allowed. You can also reference Pinterest for some good ideas too.
- Let others join the party. We’ve all met, or at some point have been that new couple down the street that doesn’t know anyone yet. Extend an olive branch so they too can have a memorable holiday. You never know what cool tradition they can add to the pot!
Looking back, I don’t know what I would have done during the holidays if it weren’t for my military friends. With many of those friends, who I no longer live near, we still plan dates when we can be in the same town.
This season can be the hardest time to endure in the military because we are removed from our hometowns and constantly uprooted from people we form bonds with. But one thing we should get good at is adapting, connecting and creating.
What’s a special tradition you’ve created with your military friends?