There is a reason the holidays are a favorite part of the year for so many. The holiday season is time spent with family and friends, where some of our most memorable childhood memories are relived year in and year out. Everything from the food to the decorating is usually steeped in tradition, which makes it that much harder to feel at home when you can’t be home for the holidays.
For military families, going home for the holidays might mean a cross-country trip or a flight halfway across the world, which is not very feasible. So, what can you do to make your family feel ‘at home’ when you’ve just arrived at a new duty station or are living somewhere temporarily?
Here are a few tips to help you feel the warmth and comfort of home when celebrating this holiday season thousands of miles away.
Build New Traditions While Keeping Old Ones Alive
It may not be possible to put up your 18-foot Christmas tree if your Crashpad has 10-foot ceilings, so you might have to scale back on the size of the tree. But if every year you decorate the tree and then go out for donuts and hot chocolate, it’s definitely doable.
Your family tradition might be cutting down a live tree each year. Well, if you are currently stationed in Florida, it’s not that it is impossible, but it’s just not as easy as in say Pennsylvania or Colorado. And buying a tree too early in a warm-weather place such as Florida or Alabama can be disastrous. We found this out the hard way one year by buying our tree right after Thanksgiving while stationed at Southern Command in Miami. By Christmas eve, the tree was bare, and I had needles everywhere!
Think about your favorite family traditions and think about how you can incorporate them into your current living situation and definitely be game for starting new traditions along the way.
Find Someone Just Like You
The old saying ‘misery loves company’ might be a bit strong, but you get the point. Wherever you land, there are always fellow military families in the same boat. Seek out families with kids similar in age to your own kids and plan a few outings together.
We loved hosting fellow military families for holiday dinners. Some of our favorite memories are potluck Thanksgiving dinners shared with friends met on base or through the spouses’ clubs.
Don’t Skimp on the Decorations!
Depending on your situation, whether you just moved into base housing at your new duty station or you are living in a Crashpad for a few months, you may or may not have your treasured holiday decorations with you. Even if you do have everything available, it may not fit in your current housing.
Select your most treasured pieces of décor and see where you might be able to use them. The huge wreath you usually hang over the fireplace might have to move the front door since your current housing doesn’t have a fireplace.
If your holiday decorations have to stay in storage, look at it an opportunity to change things up! I always admire those people who take decorating risks such as a tree decorated with birds or those who use unique colors rather than the traditional red and green. So think outside the box, take a few risks and enjoy buying a few new decorating pieces. Who knows, the green, blue, and purple peacock tree might end up being a family favorite!
Nowadays, family is never really that far away. You can facetime at important times during your holiday. Maybe the grandparents can read the Night Before Christmas‘story to the kids as they go to sleep on Christmas Eve. A deployed spouse can join in the gift opening if circumstances allow. I’ve had friends who do all their holiday baking while skyping with their mom or sister.
It is not the same as being there in person, but take advantage of all that technology has to offer to bring a little bit of the holidays to you. Put the phone on speaker, text photos of the holiday meal, Skype during the tree decorating, and you might not feel so far away from home.
I very rarely ever feel homesick, but the holidays can be tough when you are away from family and friends. We all know it’s not the decorations or the gifts but rather the people in our lives which make the holidays special. Use what is available to bring loved ones to you when you can’t physically be together. Your rental might not yet feel like home, but with a little effort, you can still enjoy those items and traditions that say ‘home’ to you.
Written by: by Carla Olivo