Holidays Military Life

What To Do When Traditions Change

My husband came home a few weeks ago and told me that his holiday block leave had been cut short due to a TAD assignment shortly after Christmas. We were planning to make our traditional 900 mile trek “back home” to Michigan to spend time with our families and friends.  

Tradition is very important to my family, and very important to me. I always looked at traditions as the anchor that helps us to remember where we came from; a piece of history that gives us the ability to tell the tales of those who came before us.

But I have a confession: When he told me we wouldn’t be making that time-honored trek up North this year, I breathed a MASSIVE sigh of relief.

I LOVE our Family. I love the annual cousin’s game night. I love showing our kids all of the places their dad and I used to frequent and the memories attached to each venue. I love reminiscing with friends from high school about band camp and softball and who used to date who. I love that my Dad and I always watched Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” (in ANY of its variations over the years) and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He always wore a green Santa hat on his head, which sported the big block letter “S” for his alma mater (Michigan State University).

I love my whole very loud and gregarious family. I love that, even in a house with plenty of seating, we will always stand in the kitchen and laugh and eat and talk about all of the traditions that helped make us who we are today…but this year is different.

This is the first Christmas that my father won’t be here to take part in our traditions. This is the first Christmas where I won’t see him wear the green Santa hat or watch him get excited when Ebenezer Scrooge vows to get Tiny Tim healthy again. This is the first time in my WHOLE LIFE that I won’t hear him say the words “Only 364 more days until Christmas” on December 26th.  This is the first Christmas that hurts so badly when I think of all of the above scenarios.

My family means the world to me, and my current feelings in NO WAY diminishes all of the happy memories of times before. This Christmas will still be filled with family and love and laughter, but it will just be different is all.

If we want to have traditions in the military lifestyle, we must do one of three things:

1. Go back home and experience our traditions as we remember them, with those we have always experienced them with;

2. Create NEW traditions where we are planted (i.e. current duty stations) and incorporate the ENTIRE military family: Born into, Sworn into, and Married into;

3. Merge these two together and do what we can with what we have.

When my husband came home and told me that our leave would be cut short and that we wouldn’t be able to make the 900 mile trek to Michigan this year, I breathed a sigh of relief. THIS year, I will be able to take a moment, rebuild my spirit and begin preparing for the excitement of next year.  I will begin preparing on December 26th, 2014 by stating the following: “Only 364 more days until Christmas”.

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