Creating Your Own Holiday Traditions as a Military Family
If your annual vacation is a visit home to see family, then you’re probably a military family. We need some of those visits as much as they do, but if we’re truly honest, the pressure to please often fuels the majority of these visits. I know I’m not alone when I say that our families expect us to use our time off to come "home," especially over the holidays.
As military families, perhaps we can help our loving families understand that instead of traveling over the holidays, it’s okay for us to stay put for Christmas and make our own traditions at home.
But I’m no pro; our little family has only spent a handful of Christmases away from home and that’s mostly because we’ve been OCONUS for the last six years. So I turned to a few military spouse friends and asked how they’ve managed to make their own holiday traditions.
1) Be direct.
Start with honesty. Communicate that you dream of recreating your childhood Christmas morning for your kids—and some years, that means staying home for Christmas.
"I wanted my children to wake up Christmas morning in their own homes and see what Santa brought them! We have traveled—rarely though—for the holidays, but I usually tell family that I like to have Christmas in our home and it’s never been an issue." -Elizabeth Peace, author of Keeping it Balanced
2) Explain the logistics.
Traveling home for the holidays isn’t easy; it can be expensive and stressful. Flights cost money, road trips with little kids can be challenging, and transporting gifts is a pain. Logistically, it’s much easier to stay home for the holidays.
"We’ve found that Xmas isn’t the best time to visit home for several reasons: it’s easy to get sick on the airplane, many family members we intend to spend time with end up being too sick to attend gatherings due to cold and flu season….and gifts are a hassle to bring or ship home if you are opening there." -Brenda M.
3) Include extended family.
If you’re not traveling home to be with them, invite the family to your home for the holidays.
"We told the families that we wanted to stay at our house and begin our own family traditions. And the grandparents agreed to come visit us that year!" -Lizann Lightfoot, The Seasoned Spouse
Or try other ways to include them. Ask your mom for advice on creating holiday magic, and try to include them in your plans by connecting on FaceTime Christmas morning. Help them to feel a part of your Christmas even if you aren't together.
"We let family know we would try to make it home, but due to the distance, cost, and wanting to start our own traditions, most years we would stay home. However, we would Skype Christmas morning wake-up with them so they could watch the grandkids get up and open presents." -Bridget Carlson, Nutty Hiker Adventures and Military Spouse
4) Suggest a new tradition.
Since Christmas is a busy time of the year and expensive for travel, propose a new tradition that brings the whole extended family together.
"My mom hosts an annual picnic in the park now back home in August. Everyone from all different branches of the family tree are invited, and she doesn’t make anyone feel guilty for not coming. There are no gifts, nobody is sick, and the weather is better." -Brenda M.
5) Remind them that time off is a luxury for military families.
Does your extended family take a vacation every year? Probably yes. Does your military family take an equivalent reset? We're quick to sacrifice family adventures in order to foster extended family relationships. There’s nothing like seeing all the cousins running around together, but I think it’s easy to overlook how impactful those core memories within the immediate family are.
"The holidays are stressful enough, but adding a ton of travel makes it very difficult to truly enjoy the season with joy." -Wendi, Strength 4 Spouses
As you make plans for this holiday season and even ones to come, I challenge you to focus on your immediate family. Are the holidays so stressful that you can’t enjoy the season? It might be a sign that it’s time to slow things down and create a few holiday traditions of your own!
Header image from iStock.com/Drazen Zigic