Christmas at home is filled with many holiday traditions you can count on. You decorate the house with lights, pull out stockings, wreaths, and garland. There’s a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments and more lights. You know what will happen on Christmas morning because it’s the same way every year: presents, warmth, and time spent with family.
But what happens for those of us who aren’t home for Christmas? What do the men and women who are sleeping in army bases, perhaps deployed overseas, do for the holidays? We notice they’re not here and send them care packages and Christmas cards, but what do they get to do on Christmas? Do they have any holiday traditions?
Read below and you’ll see there’s no geographic boundary on the holiday spirit.
What Do Military Personnel Do to Celebrate Christmas?
Have you ever spent Christmas away from family? Maybe you moved for school or work and weren’t able to make it back for the holiday. Perhaps you married and now trade off Christmases between families who have different holiday traditions. Whatever the reason or feelings of the day, you had to make the best of it in the moment. You had to do what you could to make it a happy Christmas. Members of the military do the exact same thing.
When United States military troops are deployed or stationed on a base overseas over the course of the holidays, many of them do what they can to keep the Christmas spirit alive. While not every tradition is available to every base, they do their best. They bring whatever holiday traditions they can to their duty stations and take action to spread Christmas cheer and keep spirits bright.
Here are 5 ways members of the American military celebrate Christmas:
1. Host Special Meals
Soldiers are traditionally offered a large Christmas dinner as a thanks for their service and in celebration of the holiday. While this probably can’t match the warm Christmas dinner they grew up eating at home, it’s a huge step in making the holiday away more comforting.
Traditionally, high ranking United States officers will serve the food in order to show their appreciation for their soldiers.
2. Decorate Bases, Vehicles, and Military Equipment
Some service members spread their holiday cheer by decorating their bases and even their equipment and vehicles. Lights are a favorite accessory, but they use whatever they can.
Armored vehicles have been known to be decorated with Christmas wreaths, bows, and even reindeer antlers in celebration of the holiday. Soldiers also decorate with tube lights, stickers, ornaments, and more.
3. Conduct Concerts and Services
A prayer services is traditionally held on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Soldiers gather to hear the service and reflect on the words shared. In order to celebrate the holiday fully, soldiers have also been known to host concerts and other events in order to bring even more cheer and get the troops into the Christmas mood.
4. Put up a Christmas Tree
Despite many soldiers being deployed in deserts and other barren locations, they often get creative to put up some kind of Christmas tree. While this might be a real evergreen tree with traditional Christmas lights and ornaments, it also might be a collection of metal framing, camouflage fabric, with some make-shift ornaments.
They do their best to keep the Christmas spirit alive and well.
5. Remember Those Fallen
Christmas is a powerful time of reflection for both members of the military and non-military citizens. You appreciate the holidays and the people around you so much more when you realize they may not be there next year, because of deployment or even death. Active duty military personnel do whatever they can to remember fallen soldiers. Military members back home might take time out of their Christmas to place flowers, garlands, or wreathes at the graves of fallen warriors.
Happy Holidays from SpouseLink!
Enjoy special holiday traditions this Christmas season with your friends and family — near and far. Explore the SpouseLink blog for other holiday stories.