Creative Holiday Celebrations for Military Families
While our first few Christmases as a military family allowed for visiting family, we had to get creative as we moved from duty station to duty station. Holidays during deployments and when stationed on the opposite coast or overseas make way for new traditions and ways to celebrate.
Invite ‘Single’ Service Members to Dinner
During the last 15 years we have had some memorable holidays. In true military fashion we have celebrated Christmas with the Brown family on two different continents! During our time in Spain my husband invited some deployed Marines to share our Christmas table. Brown was one of these ‘single’ Marines. Ironically, a few years later, the Brown family shared our California duty station. Since my husband and Brown were deployed, I invited his wife and kids over for Christmas. This year we may finally be able to celebrate with two complete families!
During Deployment, Celebrate Holidays with your ‘Military Family’
My first introduction to the ‘military family’ version of the holidays came during our first married deployment. I already had two young children, and was not able to make the long drive to my parents’ house alone. There didn’t seem to be any point in preparing a special meal, if I was the only one who would eat it. The chaplain’s wife rescued me from an otherwise depressing holiday. She invited several of the wives and children to come over for a kid-friendly potluck. It was perfect. Everyone brought something special, but each exhausted mom only had to prepare 1 dish. The kids played in a huge gang outside, and we served them food on paper plates. Afterwards everyone helped with the dishes. It was the most relaxed and fun deployment holiday I can remember. I’m so thankful for military spouses who become family during deployment.
When Stationed Overseas, Plan a Multicultural Holiday
While we lived in Spain, I became friends with Rocio, the wife of a Spanish Naval officer. Our Spanglish conversations were sprinkled with questions about our children, our cultures, and plenty of laughter. Rocio wanted to know all about American food, so we invited her family to our house for a traditional holiday dinner. While the children played, the adults chatted, sipped sherry wine, and munched olives and chorizo. For the main meal, we made authentic American dishes like honey ham, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Our Spanish friends marveled at each one. Rocio watched me whipping up mashed potatoes and asked, “So it’s like creama de patates?” She had never seen ‘creamed’ potatoes before. The Spanish typically serve potatoes either fried or in a cold salad. They were excited to taste cranberry sauce and an American pumpkin pie, since those foods are not sold in Spain. (I purchased my cans from the Commissary a month in advance.) It was fun to share our traditions, and to view our culture through their eyes.
Start a new Tradition
A Christmas spent in a rented apartment in the unique city of Lisbon, Portugal, was our least traditional one. On Christmas Eve, when I visited the local grocery store, I couldn’t find any ham. I did, however, find a cooked pig’s leg, with the hoof still attached! So that year, my family devoured a pig leg, while we listened to church bells chime over the historic district of Lisbon. There was no fruit cake or Christmas cookies, but it was a delicious meal celebrated in a memorable place with my family. Christmas morning found us video chatting with my family and sharing our beautiful view. So now we have a new tradition: no matter where we are in the world, we call or video chat with my family on Christmas.
How will you celebrate the holidays this year? Have you had a creative military holiday? Tell us about it!