By Amanda Huffman
Military families are no strangers to moving and starting over. And they often focus solely on the challenges around moving all your belongings from point A to B, finding a home, and getting your family settled. But there are a lot of other challenges military families face because of these transitions — and one of these is the effect that repeatedly starting over has when it comes to celebrating the holiday season.
Depending on where you lived before, or your life circumstances, your new location may mean that visiting extended family members during the holiday is no longer possible. I remember when my family moved across the country and no longer could drive home for Christmas. This meant that we spent our first Christmas “alone”. That first year, It was really hard to not be able to take part in Christmas morning as we had in years past, but my husband and I started making new traditions on our own. And while we missed being with family, we were able to enjoy our holiday season wherever the military took us.
Another challenge military families can encounter is that a lot of the traditions they participate in are location-dependent. Growing up, a lot of my holiday traditions were based on activities my family did because of where we lived. We attended many different holiday events around my hometown. Those activities are the ones I remember. And while seeing holiday displays of lights and decorations or attending concerts and parties happen pretty much everywhere, your first holiday season after a move can be hard if you don’t know where to find local events to attend, and you’re yearning for the traditions you left behind.
For my family, we have started new traditions outside of the home, but my husband and I have also been intentional in the things that we do each year as a family at home. Baking holiday cookies, opening gifts as a family (maybe not on Christmas morning due to travelling), and LEGO® advent calendars are the important holiday traditions we have done. And we can do these things wherever we are stationed. Knowing these traditions will continue wherever we live, gives our kids stability.
While we will not be attending the events we attended last year since we moved from one side of the country to the other, we are on the lookout for new traditions in our new home for this time of the year. And since we are now closer to family at our new location, we will be driving to visit them for the holiday season, something we haven’t done in years. And even though this year will look different, we are still going to see holiday lights, have pictures with Santa, and we are hoping to attend a holiday concert.
Military life gives families a different experience than families who do not move from place to place every few years. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be special and that you can’t create your own traditions both in your new home and take some transitions with you everywhere you go.
Remember to focus on the things that are most important to you and your family. You can’t do it all. And if you try to do too much, it will likely stress you and your family out and you will diminish the gift the holidays can bring.
Remember that as you’re trying to figure out what is important, you should bring your kids into the mix. If they are old enough, ask them what things they remember from past holiday seasons. The thing they remember or want to do may still be possible at your new location. Even if that exact event isn’t available, you may be able to find an alternative in your new location.
Holidays are a time for family and celebration. What traditions do you take with you to each new location you go to? And what kinds of things do you try to find when you celebrate your first holiday season in a new location?
Amanda is a military veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer who served on a combat deployment with the Army in Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career in the Space Force. Amanda is the host of the Women of the Military podcast. There she shares the stories of women who have served or are serving in the military. The podcast has over 200 episodes and over 100K downloads. Amanda is also an author and has published two books. Her first book, Women of the Military tells the stories of 28 military women who served in the military. Her second book, A Girl’s Guide to Military Service, is the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Winner for Teen Non Fiction. It is a guide for high school girls considering military service to help them build a strong foundation for their future career. She also works as a freelance writer and has been featured in a number of military publications including The War Horse, Military.com, Military Families Magazine, Clearance Jobs, Military Spouse Magazine, and more.