One harsh truth I have learned about military life is that it isn’t always possible to go home for the holidays.
Whether it’s because we can’t afford it, we can’t find care for our pets, my spouse is deployed, or he can’t get leave to go, I have found that it can be difficult to line up travel plans with his busy work schedule combined with multiple kids and pets. So, for the last four years, we have spent the holidays away from home, separated from the familiarity of the traditional Christmas dinners spent with our families.
Even though we haven’t been able to travel home in a hot minute, we have still found some ways to keep the holiday spirit alive. Here are some of the things we do when we can’t be with our families on Christmas:
A lot of organizations are doing really amazing things during the holiday season. Volunteering is a wonderful way to give back to your community and make Christmas magical for those in need! If you have children, volunteering together is a wonderful way to teach them about the true meaning of Christmas. A great place to volunteer is at your local food bank. Check out http://www.feedingamerica.org/ to find a food bank near you that needs help this holiday season!
Recreate family traditions
Growing up, Christmas dinner at my house was anything but a traditional holiday meal. My mother made a juicy prime rib with au jus, mashed potatoes with homemade brown gravy, glazed carrots, asparagus, and white chocolate raspberry cheesecake for dessert. I have kept that tradition going by making the same meal at my house every year. On Christmas Eve, my mom, stepfather, and I used to drive around town looking at the Christmas lights, and now I do this with my family, too!
Make your own traditions
Being away from home for the holidays is tough, but it is also a chance for you and your family to create your own traditions. One tradition we have created in my house is the Christmas Eve box. I wrap up a large box with pajamas for the kids, slipper socks, a board game, hot cocoa, etc. We open the box when we get home from seeing Christmas lights around town, and we do the activities in the box together before we head off to bed to wait for Santa.
Host Christmas dinner with friends
Every year (except during the height of the pandemic), my husband and I open our home and our table to his airmen that aren’t able to go home and be with their families. They may choose to bring a side or not, and they have a warm and loving place to spend Christmas instead of staring at the wall of their dorm rooms. We also play games and sit around having interesting conversations. Whether you decide to go all out and host dinner or host a potluck, having friends over can take away some of the sting from the homesickness everyone feels around the holiday season.