Holiday Traditions During a PCS

I can still tell you the exact holiday traditions we did when I was growing up. Thanksgiving was always kind of up in the air, but Christmas – that was the same every year.

Christmas Eve was my parents, my sister, and I, although as we got older, we sometimes brought friends and boyfriends in for part of the day. We would eat our favorite snacks all day and do nothing but watch our favorite Christmas movies. Mom always chose “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Dad’s pick was “Muppets’ Christmas Carol,” Amanda got “Year Without a Santa Clause,” and I inevitably picked “White Christmas.” We had a few others we always watched – Charlie Brown Christmas, A Christmas Story, Scrooged. (Writing this, I’m not really sure why we acted like we each picked one anyway…we literally watched the same handful every year…) Then, we would head to my grandma or aunt’s house, have some MORE food, and when we were about to burst, we’d bundle up and head to D.C. to see the National Tree. We’d head back to our respective houses, then my sister and I were allowed to open one present before we went to bed.

The next morning, we’d open our presents, eat our breakfast, then take naps. We’d lounge in pajamas, watching some more movies (when my sister and I got older, this tradition became watching the most inappropriate movie we’d gotten. LA Confidential, Pearl Harbor, Sleepy Hollow…you get the picture.), and then we’d gather everyone again for dinner, where all the cousins would wear their favorite Christmas clothes and bring our favorite Christmas toys and share stories of what we had opened that morning.



With the exception of one year, I just described every Christmas until I lived in Hawaii. (Caleb and Cailin did the tree twice with us in DC.) It was easy to have such solid traditions when you didn’t move, and neither did anyone else in your family.

When we moved to Hawaii, I was so excited about being warm all the time that I didn’t think about how much I would miss my normal, cold, family Christmas.

We did ok when we got to Christmas, though. I refrained from decorating until after Thanksgiving. We talked about starting our own traditions, and Caleb smartly suggested that I calm down about it – that you don’t consciously start traditions; they just happen. I asked to do a few things I loved the most when I was a kid. Caleb had a few requests, and we let Cailin choose some. They came together nicely, and made for a wonderful Christmas.

It was working for us. Until we found out we’d be PCSing during Christmas.

Because PCSing and the holidays aren’t stressful enough separate…let’s throw them together! Oh and just for some extra fun, take Caleb so he won’t be there for most of it!


Suddenly, there was a lot in the air. Would we be in our house or a hotel on Christmas? Would we have our stuff? Would Santa bring presents to wherever we were or would he wait? Caleb and I are obviously going to be able to handle it, whatever happens. Madelyn is too little to know much. But Cailin…she’s going to notice. As soon as we realized, we sat her down to talk about it. Not to tell her what was going to happen, but to see what she wanted to happen and whether or not we could make it happen.

We decided I would email Santa (he’s so hip) to ask him to please hold on to our presents until we were at the next house, because we would probably be packed by then, and didn’t want to have to pack more than we already were going to. We decided we’d decorate in early November, and just take it down right before the movers came – that way regardless of when we got packed out, we’d be in the Christmas spirit. We are going to set it all right back up when we get a house (and our stuff). Who cares if it is January or February?

As to where we will be…well, hopefully we will be in our house. If not, we can hit a beach. We explained to Cailin that regardless of where we were, we had enough wonderful friends here that would make absolutely certain we weren’t sitting in an empty house, staring at each other.


Most of our traditions will just be adjusted. Cailin doesn’t know it, but she’ll have presents to open wherever we are on Christmas Day – including her present from Santa (he’s getting her an awesome carry on suitcase with some fun stuff for the plane.). It just might not be under our tree. Or in our house. The girls will be able to open their Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve. We are going to take one last warm Christmas walk around the neighborhood in those pajamas to see our neighbor’s Christmas lights.

Our traditional Christmas is definitely not going to be in our immediate future. But as I keep telling Cailin, it isn’t what we want, it isn’t what we’re used to, but – and this is the most important part – we will be together.

And – and this is the best part about a disrupted holiday – we will eventually get to do it right. It will just be a few weeks late. Hopefully with some family!

Leave a Comment