Sometimes it’s great to go home — wherever you consider that to be — for the holiday season. Maybe you have extended family and lifelong friends that you look forward to catching up with every December. However, military life can disrupt these plans, and you may find yourself facing the holidays right where you are, without traveling over the river and through the woods. How do you keep the magic alive when you are not home for the holidays?
For some, this is a choice. Perhaps you truly want to stay at your duty station and look forward to a relaxing break without the stress of travel. For others (maybe those stationed overseas or who have to work) who cannot make the trek home, it can be tough wishing you could be somewhere else for the holidays.
Either way, if you have little ones living at your house, it’s going to be up to you to keep the magic of the season alive when you are not home for the holidays.
This is the perfect opportunity to check out local attractions and events near your installation. Is there a neighborhood known for their holiday light displays? Make sweet family memories by checking out go-to spots your town is known for.
If you have even more time, plan a day trip or weekend to a nearby vacation spot. One of the benefits of military life is having the opportunity to live in places for a short amount of time. If you don’t go home for the holidays, you could probably find some time to explore and enjoy the area around your duty station.
Keep Traditions Alive
One of the hardest things about not going home for the holidays is feeling like you’re missing out on family traditions. This is your chance to break out the holiday décor, put up a tree, and enjoy being able to stay put for the season.
Even though you might not be able to gather with extended family for a holiday feast, if traditions are important to you, dig out the recipe cards and get to work. Sometimes, just the aroma of special cookies, cultural breads, or any familiar recipe is enough to make it feel like the holidays. Cooking is one way to pass down family traditions regardless of where you are stationed.
Make a Plan
If you think it’s all going to be smooth sailing, think again. What happens when you go home and visit family and friends? Other people entertain your kids — that’s what.
While Uncle Bob plays Go Fish with your son all afternoon, you get quality catch-up time with your sisters in the kitchen over a tray of fudge. When you are not home for the holidays, it’s all on you. Too much togetherness is a real thing, so before cabin fever sets in, arm yourself with stellar ideas to make even the grinchiest Grinch get into the holiday spirit:
- Bake cookies and deliver to neighbors.
- Schedule a holiday movie marathon.
- Serve dinner at a shelter.
- Make snow globes.
- Sled or surf — whichever makes sense geographically.
- Attend a local tree lighting.
- Work on a puzzle together.
- Browse 36 more ideas for families in December.
Listen, the last thing you need is for your kid to be wide awake at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve because they haven’t been worn out all day by rambunctious cousins and rousing gift exchanges. You need those sugar plums dancing in their heads. Santa and Mrs. Claus need their sleep, too. So, gear up, get out, and power through. It will take some work and preparation, but think how much you’re saving on the stress of travel. Besides, for many families, it’s less expensive to travel home during a non-holiday season.
You might be without sleepovers at Grandma’s this year if you are not home for the holidays. And while you’ll miss her reading The Night Before Christmas to your kiddos, you’re making sweet memories just the same.
And if there’s one thing military life gives us, it’s opportunities for memory making. Remember, whether you’re cooking, serving, exploring, or snuggled up on the couch, it’s being together that makes the season magical.
Stuck where you are and you can’t even get a dusting of snow? Bring that Christmas Feeling to your Warm-Weather Duty Station!
Photo Credit: Marisa McDonald Photography