The holidays are a lot like a coin: happy, festive, and fun on one side, but stressful and sometimes sad on the other. All around the world there are hundreds of thousands of military families spending the holidays away from some of their dearest loved ones, making it a bitter-sweet time of year.

But be encouraged — something good can come of any situation, and that includes the holiday season in 2020! Here are 10 holiday activities that military families can enjoy together to help celebrate the holidays. And who knows? It just might be your best holiday season yet!


1. Start a Joy Jar

You may have heard of deployment candy jars where a child gets a piece of candy (often HERSHEY’S KISSES) for every day of their parent’s deployment. During the holidays, however, you can do this with a bit of a twist! Instead of candy, have your kids write or sketch something on a small piece of paper that brings them joy each day counting up until Christmas. Then on Christmas Day, you can bring out all the paper slips and read them as a reminder of how much there is to be grateful for as you celebrate the holidays.


2. Buy (or Make!) a New Christmas Ornament Every Year

As a military family, it’s not uncommon to spend Christmases in new places, so why not commemorate your time in those places with a holiday memento?

Try buying a new ornament every year representing where you’ve lived, or you can even have a craft night with the kids and make custom ornaments to remember the year you’ve shared together.


3. Host a Virtual Holiday Party

This has been the year for virtual events, so why not keep a good thing going and throw a virtual holiday party? Set a date and time and invite all the friends and family you would normally want at a party of yours to enjoy a meal together, play games, sing songs, etc. You may be surprised at how much fun you can have even if you aren’t all able to be in the same location.


4. Gift Recordable Storybooks

This is a wonderful way to keep distant grandparents or aunts and uncles included in your family traditions, especially if you have younger children. Family members can purchase a recordable book (easily found on sites like Amazon), then read the story in their voice and send it to the kids so holiday tales can be enjoyed with a personal narrator.


5. Drive by Neighborhood Light Displays

A popular activity any holiday season, but this year especially, hop in the car and drive through your surrounding neighborhoods to look at everyone’s Christmas lights and decorations.

Try researching which areas near your home tend to have the best holiday light displays and then make a drive-through after dinner. It’s a great way to get into the Christmas spirit while staying at a safe distance from others.


6. Replicate Your Favorite Traditions from Home

While many civilian families will be spending the holidays apart this year, MilFams and servicemembers are especially familiar with modifying holiday traditions to account for distance. Just because you aren’t home for Christmas doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate the holidays to the fullest. Hanging stockings, listening to Christmas songs, and having a virtual holiday meal with loved ones can make a difficult separation during the holiday season a lot merrier.


7. Create Distanced Christmas Traditions

While traditions like door-to-door Christmas caroling are to be avoided this year, get creative and think of new, socially-distanced traditions to safely celebrate the holidays with friends and family.

FaceTime while you bake or decorate cookies, send personalized Christmas letters, or even host virtual hot cocoa dates.

8. Assemble Care Packages

Whether your Military Spouse is deployed or not, assembling care packages for other servicemembers who are deployed for the holidays can be a great way to add some joy to the holiday season. Send some of your favorite goodies and gifts to share the Christmas cheer with those who can’t spend their holidays with loved ones.


9. Go Ice Skating

There are few things quite as festive as ice skating during the holidays and, as an outdoor activity, it’s one of the safer ways to celebrate the season beyond your own home.

Find a rink near you, call ahead to see if reservations are required, and double-check their rules to ensure you’re keeping yourself and others safe. Enjoy an afternoon or evening of family ice skating, and don’t forget to drink hot cocoa to warm up afterwards!


10. Binge-Watch Christmas Movies

You can probably bet that everyone in your family has a different favorite Christmas movie. Instead of bickering about which one you’ll watch, pop some popcorn, pour some egg nog or cocoa, and get ready to watch them all as you celebrate the holidays.


2020 has surely been a challenging year, which is why it’s so important to spread some extra holiday cheer. What are your plans for the holiday season this year? Tell us how your MilFam is safely celebrating the holidays this year on our Facebook page!


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