For many civilian families, holiday celebrations roll around like clockwork. The same family parties are attended each year by the same people who bring their favorite, familiar foods and enjoy the same familiar company. However, military families (and other families who are separated) can’t always make their plans based on any ordinary calendar.
When our loved ones are away, we have our own unique tradition – “Holiday Rescheduling.” Any holiday or celebration is fair game. Birthday parties are early or late, we shoot fireworks off in August and yes, even the great cluster of beloved winter holidays are included.
Just last month, I had a casual discussion with a neighbor about when their Thanksgiving would be this year. He answered happily, “two weeks early,” so that he could both celebrate with his family and then deploy on a five week exercise.
It might sound strange to someone looking in from the outside, but in reality, this is just one more little thing military families do to make the lifestyle work. There will always be that familiar sting that comes with seeing an empty place setting at a holiday table, but at least everyone (mostly) wins.
As a plus, the deployed service member and the family they leave behind get to celebrate twice – once with their loved ones and once on the traditional date with their colleagues or family at home.
In my house, we feel that a date on a calendar makes a day, but a family, friends, love and effort makes a holiday.
For those of you about to celebrate your favorite holiday without a loved one, we salute you and hope it’s the very best it can be. If you’re “rescheduling” a holiday for your loved one’s return, we hope you’ll enjoy our list of tips for making it the best it can be!
- Don’t be afraid to go all out! Surprise a loved one with a few decorations and the favorite things they may have missed out on. It might sounds a little silly, but it really can be a lot of fun. Surely, your neighbors will enjoy your Christmas lights in February!
- Put a few IOU’s or hints of what’s to come in your service member’s care packages.
- Invest in a life-sized cardboard cutout of your service member. During my husband’s last deployment, “FlatDaddy” went everywhere with us! Not only was it fun and humorous, but we were able to include him in all our holiday pictures.
- Get the kids involved in planning your holidays. It makes the time pass quickly and takes their minds off the more serious topics.