Keeping the Holiday Spirit Alive When You Can’t Deck the Halls
While most military families equate summertime with the typical PCS move season, many families—including ours—have experienced a military move or two during the winter months or during the traditional Christmas season. (here’s more on PCSing with young kids midyear!)
When you’re in the midst of the normal chaos and stress that go along with any PCS, add in the holidays and it increases exponentially. You want to keep everyone happy, make sweet memories for your kids, and perhaps even stay sane in the process.
What to do? How can you keep the holiday spirit alive when you’re living out of boxes or suitcases?
We experienced a Christmas like this a couple of years ago. However, we were able to keep perspective fairly easily since we all truly did feel that the only thing that mattered was being together since my husband had spent three out of the past five holiday seasons deployed.
Still, there’s nothing that screams home quite like packing boxes and loaner furniture (insert sarcasm here), so here are a few things we learned while PCSing during the holidays.
1. Jingle All the Way!
Embrace the season in spite of your surroundings.
The above-mentioned year found us eating Christmas dinner with yet unpacked boxes hurriedly shoved into any available space. We’d moved overseas in October, and if you’ve ever moved overseas, then you know that your household goods take quite a bit longer to arrive than the norm (especially if you’re on short notice orders). I knew we’d get notified of the impending shipment in December, just knew it. And we did. December 20ish was the day and we unpacked as much as we could to make the place livable: furniture, kitchen, bedding. Then we crammed the rest into the garage to deal with at a later date so we could ALL enjoy Christmas. And we did! We put together a hurried dinner, invited new neighbors over for commissary-bought pie (all military, so no explanations needed of the “décor” or dessert), and honestly had one of our most joy-filled holidays in recent memory!
2. Silent Night?
If you’re living in temporary lodging or a hotel, it might not be.
If you’ve recently moved, you’ll have to readjust your expectations for sure, especially if you’re in temporary quarters and can hear every noise through the thin walls. But why not treat it as a big vacation? Think about it—the pressure’s off! No one is expecting YOU to put together a giant dinner and all the fixings. Do your gift shopping online when you have a moment and have them shipped to your temporary PO box ahead of time if you can. Pay for gift wrapping, just this once. Pack stockings in your luggage and hang them up in your temporary space. Go out to eat or order a complete pre-made holiday meal. Purchase a mini-tree and a few ornaments to create a festive air or find ideas on Pinterest for creating a “wall tree.” (Do a search for those terms and you’ll be surprised at the creativity and simple items needed.)
Regardless of where exactly in the world you are, your corner of the world CAN be merry and bright!
3. We Three Kings
While you might not encounter wise men bearing gifts, you may be surprised at who shows up!
I hope your new neighbors greet you with holiday goodies or at least a friendly welcome. But if you’ve moved in and no one has reached out, YOU be the one to do it. Suggest a simple cookie exchange or invite a few people over for hot cocoa or other preferred beverages. Getting nowhere? Put out a note on Facebook that your family just moved and your kids could use some encouragement. Then read the comments together to remind yourselves of the people who know and love you.
4. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
Remember that home is where your family is.
While moving during the holidays doesn’t top my list of fun things to do, one thing I reminded myself during those times was that if our family was together, that was enough. I have a little sign in my home that is familiar to military families, “Home is Where the Air Force Sends Us” and I really believe it. We’ve spent enough holidays apart to know what’s important, and I bet you have, too. Since this is your new home for now, make some new memories!
- Change it up. Do something you wouldn’t normally do. In a different climate than you’re used to? Get out of temporary housing and explore a little!
- Embrace something familiar. Stow favorite movies in your luggage or download them to your laptop or tablet to run a holiday movie marathon.
- Plan some Facetime or Skype dates with the friends you just left or extended family.
5. God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen
Don’t forget the basics: rest, humor, and an indulgence here and there!
In the midst of taking care of everyone else, don’t forget you. Proper rest, time alone, or whatever recharges you, while harder to come by in the midst of the upheaval of a move, are so important for you to feel well and be your best self. Leave the unpacking—it can wait! Trust me. And then you, too, might be singing…
6. Joy to the World!
While it’s certainly not easy, a holiday PCS has a way of showing us what’s really important in life. Wishing you a happy holiday!