The Holidays and The Military Family

The views and opinions reflected expressed herein are of that of the author, and do not necessarily reflect Naval Services FamilyLine. 

Christmas is just six days away, tomorrow is the last day of Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa begins the day after Christmas.  Traffic is heavy, retail store lines are long, postal services are working overtime, and you may be wishing there were two of you to get everything ready.  Especially when your spouse is away for the holidays. 

As a Navy family for nearly 20 years, we have been very, very lucky.  Of myhusband’s many deployments, we have only been separated by an ocean at Christmas one time. That year, we put the Christmas tree up very early, and kept the tree up until he returned home from deployment.  I remind myself often how fortunate we have been, as I know many military friends who will celebrate the holidays without their spouses, and in some cases, Gold Star Spouses and families who will never have that privilege again.  As I think of those spouses and families, the tears return, and the typing stops for a moment. 

Our Navy community is not limited to a specific zip code.  Navy families live all over the world, inside and outside the borders of the United States.  Many will celebrate the holidays in the company of their entire family.  Many will celebrate the holidays in a foreign country, where our customs and traditions will most likely differ, and will long for the chance to be wherever they call home.  There is an old adage, “home is where the Navy sends us”, but in our hearts, we almost always know where home really is. 

For this Navy spouse, home is still just five minutes up the street.  It is my childhood home that my parents purchased in 1976, and the one we sold after their sudden deaths a few years ago.  It was where we celebrated the holidays, and made priceless memories in the mountain of wrapping paper that formed after all the gifts were opened, while “A Christmas Story” marathon played all day long in the background.  My mother died 5 days before Christmas, and the holiday is now both joyful and sorrowful for me.  I can no longer visit the house I loved so much, but I can continue the traditions I grew to love as a child with my own family as an adult. 

But I am just one of thousands and thousands of Navy spouses this holiday season, and yet we all have one thing in common: making the holidays as merry and bright as we can regardless of our location, destination, or situation. It’s simply what we do for our families. 

So this year, as I have done for so many years before, I will make my mother’s Christmas cookies, we will serve a large breakfast on Christmas morning and then snack on our favorite holiday munchies - as my mother called them - throughout the day.  “A Christmas Story” will play in the background, and my husband and I will be in no hurry to clean the wrapping paper off the floor.  I will make bows the way my mother taught me, and I will enjoy thinking back to my father picking out all the cashews from the snack mix, or how he always tried and always failed, to be the lookout on Christmas Eve.  I can’t help but smile as I think back to that particular memory.  Or the way they both lit up watching our children react to the missing cookies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer.  All of those traditions, those memories, I carry with me today, and will carry on for my family.  No matter where the Navy takes us.

We would love to hear how you make the most of your holiday season as a military family!  Please comment below with advice, support, or to extend a holiday greeting to friends and family around the world.