The music is in the air, people are stringing lights, the world is full of smiles and laughter; Christmastime is here. But, for military families the holidays can be a bit different. Not worse, not better, just different. Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, National Guard, and Army wives weighed in on the topic.
25 Things Only a Military Spouse Would Understand about Christmas…
25 | An artificial tree is a must for some families!
There is no shame in pulling a tree out of a box rather than chopping one down from the woods. A fake tree helps keep the Christmas spirit alive in some cases. Deployments, duty, and other obligations can keep your spouse away from home on Christmas morning. Having an artificial tree means you can celebrate in November, December, or January!
24| Cook extra!
If your spouse is home this holiday season, you can count on him or her to invite stray Marines to Christmas dinner. But as the saying goes, the more the merrier! And that certainly held true for a Marine Corps spouse stationed overseas with her husband. He said he invited “a couple” guys over; thirty showed up! That’s ok, just more hands to help with dishes.
23 | Mac ‘n Cheese is OK.
If you’re spending Christmas alone or with a couple of kids…it’s okay to go light on the meal. No one will judge you if your holiday meal consists of a box of macaroni. If it keeps the kids happy, make it.
22 | Christmas songs take on a whole new meaning.
Mariah Carey was speaking directly to military spouses when she recorded ‘All I Want for Christmas is You,’ right? And as far as ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas,’ goes…it’s okay if you burst into tears while shopping for gifts and the song comes over the loudspeakers.
21 | Your “family” is right here!
You may not be “home” for the holidays, but you’re still with your family.
No matter what branch your loved one serves under, we’re all family. Whether you’re an Army spouse surrounded by soldiers and their families or a Navy spouse drowning in sailors, we’re all in this together. We are the Military Spouse Community. Oftentimes, our “military family” provides better support and empathy than our blood relatives. It’s all about experiencing the ups and downs together…and celebrating the holidays as one.
20 | Thanksgiving dinner can be cooked any day of the week, any month of the year.
“In 2012 we had several friends who were deployed for Thanksgiving, so since Thanksgiving was a favorite holiday for a few of them, we had Thanksgiving again when they got back…in July,” Marine Corps Spouse Kyle Skinner said. Calendars have taken on little meaning for many military families (except when counting down the days to a homecoming!) we have to celebrate holidays our own way…on our own time.
19 | Savvy shopping is the way to go!
It isn’t uncommon for military families to survive on a single income. But that doesn’t mean spouses have to sacrifice great products and gifts. Military spouses have perfected the art of bargain and consignment shopping and coupon clipping to create fabulously decorated homes and sneak some amazing gifts under the tree. Here’s some last minute Christmas gifts on a budget!
18 | Skype and FaceTime are as good as gold.
Three deployments in four and a half years for one couple turned into a lot of time chatting over the Internet and sending care packages. Signing into Skype, or catching one another for a moment on FaceTime, often marks important moments; they’re not forgotten.
17 | Good intentions can backfire.
In-laws like to help, right? But sometimes their “help” can harm a situation. One military spouse said that the decision to allow her in-laws to visit over the holidays while her husband was away turned out to be the worst Christmas ever. “They constantly proclaimed that this holiday is so hard for them because their son is gone,” she said. What about the spouse missing the other half and kids missing a parent? Sometimes you have to be a military spouse to understand which phrase can send us off our rockers!
16 | Red and green aren’t the only Christmas colors.
Tradition, schma-dition. Red and green may be considered classics, but some military spouses forego that and choose to decorate their trees in red, white, and blue! Another even said she decorated her artificial tree with yellow ribbons and left it up until her husband returned from deployment. Not only will your tree have meaning, but also it is sure to be unique.
15 | Pack up the extras; we’re making a delivery!
While most families around the country pack up the extra turkey and ham, saving it to make soup and sandwiches in the coming days, military spouses know how to stretch it in a better way. Pull out the disposable Tupperware, dish-up servings, and grab some plastic utensils. “Honey, can you drive these leftovers to the MP’s and some of the guys on duty?” That’s how we take care of our leftovers: send them to the men and women in uniform who are working this holiday.
14 | Sometimes, life really does depend on technology.
As much as people like to say we all need to “unplug” more often, technology is the one tool that really keeps us connected as a military family. Many parents can relate to the feeling that comes with tip toes down the stairs Christmas morning, pulling out the laptop or tablet and praying, hoping his or her spouse will get an Internet signal on the other end. Being able to tell the kids they can open presents with their deployed parent is an amazing feeling.
13 | What’s their address this year?
Creating, ordering, and sending the perfect holiday card is a feat many American families strive to achieve year after year. But the military family faces an extra obstacle. Where do all of our friends live this year? We’re constantly updating address books with new addresses, accidentally sending items to an old address and opening our mailboxes to see the dreaded note from the postal worker: “Return to Sender.” Should sending a holiday card really be this stressful each year? Well no, but getting them in the mail is always so fun…so let’s keep the tradition alive.
12 | Will that pack well?
Our Christmas lists (when it comes to giving and receiving) are about so much more than what we want. They’re about what we need…and what is least likely to break when we have to PCS again. How many times have your kids asked for something that you knew was a bad idea because it would just end up in pieces on the other end of a move? Better yet, how many times have you scratched an item off your own wish list because you don’t want to spend the money on something so nice (we all know what happens to “nice” stuff during a move).
11 | Santa always knows when our family has moved.
“Mommy, how will Santa find us now that we live in Japan?” Santa sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good and when you’ve made a PCS move. Our lives are full of change, but one thing is a constant…Santa and his reindeer will always find the way to our many, many homes. Reasons Why Your (Military Kids’) Elf on the Shelf Didn’t Appear/Move Last Night.
10 | We have too many friends!
We’re blessed to have so many loving people to rally behind us in our times of need; but sometimes we’re blessed beyond measure. Simply said, our houses just can’t hold all of the people we love. Planning a casual holiday meal or party with friends can easily turn into a zoo. But, having so many people who care about us, and countless friends you’re fond of is a good problem to have.
9 | Free shipping? I’ll take 10!
When your friends are scattered across the country and your family is far from you too…the words “free shipping” are music to your ears! Amazon Prime deals, Black Friday discounts, and Cyber Monday steals make holiday shopping even more fun. So get your list ready and start searching online…you don’t have much time to make sure your gifts are delivered before Christmas Day.
8 | Where did we store that elf?
Most families have a spot for things. Everything has a spot. The dishes are in the second cupboard to the right of the microwave and the old magazines? Oh, those are in the top drawer of the desk. The Elf on the Shelf, that’s…oh wait…where is the “spot” military families can rely on each year. That’s right! We move so often we’re constantly reorganizing, de-cluttering, and buying new items. We don’t have “spots,” ok…Yes, it may be hard for some people to believe, but we don’t always know where everything is. Even the most organized of military spouses can admit he or she has lost something very important over the years. Now, are you ready? Is your Elf ready to make his first appearance? Find it!
7 | Base housing doesn’t usually come with a chimney.
Ummm…how will Santa come down the chimney if we don’t have one? And where will we hang the stockings? Base housing typically doesn’t include a chimney. This is where your craft and storytelling skills will be put to the test. No matter how you explain it, Santa will get into your house while the kids are asleep and the stockings will be full.
6 | I get to pick out my own gifts.
Everything has a silver lining. Even deployments have their hidden beauty too. Being separated makes you appreciate one another even more than you already did and gives you time to focus on the projects you’ve wanted to complete but never had time. It also means you get to pick out something nice for yourself since your loved one isn’t home to do the shopping. So pack up the pity party and put your best smile on; you’re going shopping and its time to get yourself that special thing you’ve been eying…
5 | Sometimes your kids need a tighter hug.
Military children are strong. They’re independent and they adapt well to change. They’re confident and cool under stress. But sometimes, they need to let their guard down during the holiday season…if mom or dad is gone, they may be a little emotional. Have some extra patience with your children and hold them a little longer and squeeze them a little tighter. Christmas without a parent can be tough.
4 | That ‘Charlie Brown’ is special to us.
It may not be the fullest of trees, but a military family’s tree always has meaning. And some military spouses choose to keep a small artificial tree and instead of spending big bucks on ornaments that will have to move from house to house, they let their children decorate the tree with homemade ornaments. And with Pinterest these days, please…a DIY tree could end up looking a million times better than any other real fern, adorned in designer bulbs.
3 | Maybe we’ll be together next year.
We never know where this road will lead us next. Military life can be full of excitement and change. And that’s a good thing, especially when you look forward to the future. You may be missing milestones with your loved one right now and Christmas and New Year’s Eve may seem a little lonely this year, but guess what? There’s always the chance you’ll be together next year.
2 | It looked great in our last house, but here…not so much.
Did you know you were signing up for this when you got married? What looks amazingly beautiful in one house may stay packed up in the garage at your next duty station. Just when you thought you had enough lights to string the whole condo, you find out you’re moving to a four-bedroom home on the other side of the country and will need to purchase 5 more spools of lights. But the big box store you bought yours from doesn’t carry the same style anymore so you’ll have to pick out all new lights. This may sound like a small problem, but if you run into on the right day at the right time, it may seem like your world is being turned upside down. No sweat though…you’ll move again soon so maybe your old lights will come in handy then.
1 | No gift is greater than ours.
Material things don’t carry the same meaning they may have before. Opening the perfect pair of earrings or getting an expensive blouse isn’t the reason we hope to wake up with our loved ones Christmas morning. We already have everything we need: a family that loves one another, hopefully a spouse who is home…or will be home soon, and a desire to fight for the greater good by serving our country. We know what it is like to be separated; being together is the greatest gift one could every wish for as a military family.