Tag Archives: holidays

Christmas in the Military: They Answered the Call

A few years back, my husband, Dave, was on a deployment rotation where he was deployed for 4 months and then home for 4 months. This cycle continued for 2 years. During this time, he missed a lot of special days, including some holidays. I wrote this poem to reflect the Christmas holiday for families with a deployed family member. I have never shared it, but this year I decided to share it in support of all of our military that are serving and are away from their families this Christmas.

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Christmas in the Military

Another year has gone by and we cannot wait,
Christmas time is coming; time to celebrate.

Mommy told me Christmas will be different this year,
As I looked at her face, I saw one lonely tear.

She says Daddy cannot come home, he will not be here,
All I can do is look at her with sadness and fear.

My Daddy is a hero, for everyone to see,
He’s fighting the war for our proud military.

I am sad at first, but I think for a while,
And finally I am able to show a bright smile.

If Daddy can’t be here, it is perfectly clear:
We take Christmas to Daddy and fill him with cheer.

Mommy smiles a big smile to show she understands,
She says let’s get busy and start making our plans.

First things first, we start writing our list,
Double checking it twice, to make sure nothing is missed.

Off to the store to buy our supplies,
So many great things brings wonder to my eyes.

Back at the house, let the projects begin,
Can we finish in time? That would be a blessed win!

We mark the calendar, December 10th is the date,
If we cannot finish, Daddy’s gifts will be late.

First, we make a collage with pictures of us,
Will he love seeing my first day of school on the bus?

Next, we pack a shoe box with all of his needs,
Soap, deodorant, shaving supplies, and books that he reads.

Moving on to a special gift for Daddy from me,
Drawing is ‘our thing,’ I give him a lot to see.

Our next gift is all of Daddy’s favorite treats and more,
Cookies, candy canes, brownies, and movies galore.

The last gift is the most special you see,
A video is made by mommy and me.

We tell him how much we miss him, can’t wait until he is back,
And hopefully all of his gifts will fit in that great big, green pack.

Finally, I wrap all the gifts and place a bow on each one,
To the post office we go, our job is almost done.

At the counter, we prepare to ship our box,
I’m very nervous, shaking in my socks.

The postman, replies, “I will do all that I can,”
I answer, “Thank you sir, my Daddy’s a very special man!”

“Twas the Night Before Christmas,” Daddy would always recite,
But this year we read it and it took all of our might.

Christmas morning we wake up and go downstairs,
Santa has been here, but still nothing compares.

What happens next, is the best gift of the day,
The computer screen comes on and I hear my Daddy say,

“Merry Christmas, son, thank you for the gift,”
“You and mommy are my world,” and I feel my little heart lift.

We talk on the computer for a long while,
And all we can do is smile and smile.

Daddy says he has to go, but tells us each day he loves us more and more,
Only two more months and he will be through with this tour.

As the computer goes off, Mommy and I look at each other,
You can feel the love between a son and his mother.

We open our gifts and Mommy says she is so proud of me,
Giving Daddy a special Christmas has been an amazing journey.

Later that night, she kisses me and tucks me into bed,
As I drift off to sleep with happy thoughts in my head.

Remember, children everywhere, and listen with care,
Because I have something very important to share.

If your Mommy or Daddy cannot be home on a special day,
Take the special day to them and do it your own way.

Even when they are gone, they love you through and through,
You are their pride, you are their hero, too!

Merry Christmas, happy holidays to all,
Our military is where they need to be; they answered the call!

Posted by Sonserae Martinez, Marine Spouse

Christmas in Senegal: Paper Trees and Mandarin Oranges

As a young child celebrating Christmas, I associated the holidays with cold weather and the hope for snow. We would be among the first to buy our freshly cut Christmas tree and decorate it with lights and ornaments. My mom made fancy Christmas dresses for our special candlelight Christmas Eve service. Christmas Day, we would bundle up and trek over to my grandparents for food and presents. For years, these memories were as familiar and comfortable as my favorite winter coat.

When I turned 13, my holiday experience changed in a big way. My parents and I moved to West Africa to do mission work. Little was familiar and I would soon be learning to appreciate holiday memories in a new way.

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I remember our first holiday season in Africa, like it was yesterday. It was a balmy 104 degrees, and instead of a Christmas tree, we had a paper tree plastered on the wall. In place of a fancy dress, I wore shorts and a tank top.  It was Christmas-time, but everything in me resisted the change.

I cried a lot that first Christmas. Maybe it was the sad paper tree, or maybe it was because I wasn’t around my siblings, grandparents, and extended family. Maybe it was because I just wanted peanut M&Ms that didn’t arrive half-eaten by rats. I simply missed the comforts of home.

But even though it didn’t feel like what I thought the holidays should feel like, I came to embrace my new “holiday” normal. With my brother, sister, and our entire extended family on the other side of the world, my parents and I created new and different holiday traditions. Families that didn’t fly state-side for the holidays, came together and merged into one, big “family” unit comprised of friends and stragglers. We didn’t have snow, but we had the beach. And I was actually starting to enjoy this!

My favorite past-time during the holidays became sunbathing on our empty school campus in Dakar, Senegal, while reading through Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, and eating mandarin oranges by the dozens. To this day, mandarin oranges are the #1 thing I think of during Christmas-time.

Military families often have to adjust their holiday traditions because of PCS moves or deployments, and I know it can be hard. Even though the latter part of my childhood was spent overseas away from family, I am so grateful for the experience and hope to give my own children the same opportunity. Who knew paper trees and mandarin oranges could create such a special holiday memory?

What’s your favorite holiday memory? Have you had to adjust any traditions because of a military move?

hannahPosted by Hannah Pike, Communications Deputy Director

Meeting Your Significant Other’s Family: 5 Tips to Nail It This Holiday Season

It’s new. It’s scary.

No, I’m not talking about that new fancy TV remote control your boyfriend has with all those buttons that you aren’t really sure what to do with. I’m talking about when you make it to the point in your relationship when spending the holidays with your significant other’s (SO) family becomes a reality.

For my boyfriend and I made the decision to start splitting holidays two years ago. We spend Thanksgiving down south with my parents, and the land of delicious snacks for the winter holidays with his folks. So far, so good, but I would be lying if I didn’t say there have been some growing pains along the way.

Navigating other families’ holiday traditions while not feeling like an outsider can take some time. But I’ve picked up a few nuggets of wisdom that may help ease the transition so you don’t feel like you need to reach for that extra glass of eggnog, or whiskey…or eggnog whiskey.

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Don’t show up empty handed
My mom taught me this from a young age, and I think it should apply to any visit you make. Sometimes money can be tight though, so don’t forget about the appeal of homemade gift (cookies can go a long way!). If you have a few extra bucks to spend, but don’t know what to get, think local. A bag of coffee from a local coffee house where you live, or maybe a beer or wine that they can’t get where they live. Try hitting up your local farmers or flea market to find something unique. The more thoughtful you are with your gift, the more meaningful it will be to your SO’s parents, especially if it’s the first time you are meeting.

Offer to help
In the kitchen, with any last minute decorating, etc. Although you may feel uncomfortable leaving your SO’s side, put yourself out there and offer to help clean up the dishes, or set the table. You never know when something so small could mean so much. You’re a guest in their home, and it may feel weird for them to have someone new there, so be sure to offer to help. And use it as a chance to chit chat and get to know each other! But keep this next tip in mind…

Avoid controversial topics
As with the first two points, this is also something good to keep in mind all the time–not just a trip to your SO’s hometown. This doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion, but try to avoid any political or religious debates during your visit. The holidays should be a time for happiness and togetherness, not time for you and Uncle Jerry to get into a spitting match over why so-and-so is a moron (even if said so-and-so probably is).

Befriend the pets
Any pets they may have are a part of their family, so you can help win your way to their heart by making friends. If, for some reason, you aren’t the biggest fan of pets, don’t sweat it, just be kind and courteous, and never be rude. Talk to your SO beforehand, too, in case you have allergies. Dying of anaphylactic shock upon your first meeting will definitely be memorable–but we don’t want that for you.

Talk to your SO beforehand
If you are having any anxiety about visiting for the holidays, have a conversation with your partner about what is causing the anxiety. Is it just being somewhere new? Are you worried about small talk? Ask for advice on things to talk about before you get there to help avoid any awkward silences. And if they happen, embrace them. They are probably just as nervous as you, so take a breath, enjoy, and don’t take yourself too seriously. We’re human, after all.

Happy Holidays!

What are your tips for meeting your significant other’s family? Have a crazy ‘first-meeting’ story? Leave us a comment and share!

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

New Orders, New House, New Holiday Traditions

The military is steeped with traditions, and honoring the traditions is one of the aspects of military life my family enjoys the most.

We also enjoy celebrating holiday traditions–military-style. For us, our holiday “traditions” are not always the same. We try for common themes; yet we don’t worry about small details because spending time with family or friends is more important than getting the holiday tradition right.

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This is our son’s fifth Christmas, and third Christmas in a new house. Ever since he was born, I’ve made it a point to decorate for the holidays. He loves it. He loves looking at the calendar and planning out what event or holiday is next. He likes to create art projects and proudly display the handmade creations on our walls. With a military lifestyle, it can be difficult to replicate the same traditions each year.

This year, my son wanted to have a small Christmas tree in his room. My gut reaction was to say no; I don’t need another item to set-up, store, or take down. But before I said no, I thought about his request. At age five, he wants to be involved in holiday traditions and have some ownership and traditions that are uniquely his own. With another new house, I thought, why not?

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Here are my tips for honoring holiday traditions…military-style:

  1. Be Flexible. In military life, holiday celebrations are constantly changing. One year you may be able to celebrate with family and the next year your service member may be deployed. Your traditional family meal or outing may have to be swapped for something that is convenient and fits the moment. Pizza for Christmas dinner? Sure!

  2. Ban “Perfect” from your Vocabulary. 
    I have to remind myself of this often. It doesn’t have to be perfect. When my one year old and five year old had finished decorating the tree in my son’s room, I wasn’t thrilled that all of the ornaments were clumped together, or hanging from bookshelves and stuffed animals, but they were happy and proud of their work. I sometimes find them playing Santa, and having a tree they can play with keeps them busy and makes them feel involved.
  3. Redefine your family traditions. What makes something a tradition? Is it an event or ritual repeated each year? Maybe you aren’t located in an area where you can find a fresh tree or attend a tree lighting ceremony. Check out the local events and try a new tradition, like sledding down sand or watching a holiday movie while floating in a pool!

Whatever holiday traditions your family likes to honor (or not), remember what becomes a tradition is up to you.

Does your military family honor holiday traditions?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Issue Strategist

No Hum-Bugs Allowed! Everything You Need to Know About European Christmas Markets!

We live in a highly politically correct society. Growing up, Christmas parties were the norm in grade school. Today, you can barely get away with having a “Holiday Party” or a “Winter Social.”  On the other hand, most of America is upset about a red cup at Starbucks.

To be completely honest, I don’t get too bent up about what words to use (despite being a writer!), and I’m adult enough to respect other people’s ways of life.

However, since moving to Germany, Christmas has taken on a whole new life of it’s own for me!

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Christmas Markets
If you are currently stationed in Europe, you’ve probably started hearing the buzz of the famous Christmas Markets…and for good reason!

Despite not even needing to be Christian to absolutely love and enjoy these delightful markets, the name still remains the same as it has for hundreds of years. Depending on where you are, it may vary, but it all means the same, “Christmas Markets.”

Here in Germany, locals, service members, and tourists, alike, all go nuts for the annual Weinacht or KristKindles Markt. You could be a direct descendant of Scrooge himself, yet somehow, attending any market will surely put you in a jolly mood!

Have you ever walked into a room and just felt an electricity in the air? This is what Christmas Markets are like! The smell of pine in the air, the most beautifully handcrafted items, food so delicious and, of course, Glühwein, the seasonal mulled wine, all create this magical feeling. It’s as if there is a “No Hum-Bugs Allowed” rule in the market vicinity!

Whether you are stationed in Germany, Italy, England, or elsewhere in Europe, your country is sure to have their own versions of Christmas Markets, with the same, general theme of putting anyone in a good mood and serving up delicious food and drinks–all with an enchanting Christmas theme.

Shopping
Do you dread Christmas shopping? While many markets may have similar items, each market often has some unique and amazing items for sale. This makes holiday shopping a blast! Plus, who doesn’t love drinking warm wine while window shopping and looking at beautifully crafted items!? Your friends and family back home will love receiving thoughtful gifts from the foreign country you are living in, instead of the typical gifts we often receive that don’t have a unique touch.

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Culture
The Christmas markets are also perfect opportunities to learn more about your local culture as well. Each country has their own versions of Santa, and the kids are sure to have a great time seeing the beautiful costumes and learning about the legends and traditions.

So, whether this is your first year stationed in Europe, or your fifth, like us, you’ll never get tired and bored of these magical markets. Go find a local one, or even make a trip of it and explore some of the world’s largest and oldest (Dresden, Nurnberg, Strasbourg) and most enchanting Christmas markets this year.

Some popular markets to attend are:
Germany: Dresden, Nurnberg and Koln
France: Strasbourg, Colmar and Lille
Italy: Verona, Balzano and Trento
UK: Winchester Cathedral, Caerphilly and Liverpool

Planning on going to a Market in Germany?  See what other tips and places the EconomicalExcursionists suggest while in Deutschaland!

Have you ever been to a Christmas Market in Europe? Which was your favorite?

LeAnna Brown currently doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up, so to delay major life decisions, her and her husband, Andy, have decided to move to Europe and travel the world via Travel Hacking. After almost 40 countries down in four years and only a few thousand dollars spent a year on travel, they have learned to penny-pinch their way to a bare minimalist lifestyle to help them see and appreciate the world. Read more about their close-to-free travel adventures at EconomicalExcursionists.com, or join in with the EE community on the Facebook page.

Happy Thanksgiving, Military Families!

With warm hearts and joyful spirits, we wish you and your military family a Happy Thanksgiving. Need a reason to be grateful for your military life? We’ve got 30 reasons to give thanks!

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30 MORE Reasons We’re Thankful for This Military Life!

We know military life can be filled with up’s and down’s, and with plenty of reasons to be sad, mad, let down, and lonely. Most military spouses, however, can find many more reasons to be grateful, joyful, excited, and thankful (and we love that about you!).

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Have you been following our #30DaysofThanks (Military Family Edition) on our Facebook page? There, we’re highlighting some of the awesome reasons why military families, like yours, are thankful for your military life. Follow us on Facebook to check out the other 30 Days of Thanks posts!

But that got us thinking: there are WAY more than 30 reasons that we’re thankful for our military journey! Here are a few other reasons:

  • Having a friend in 20 cities around the world
  • Never having to look farther than your Facebook feed for travel advice
  • Not being the only one to ask a stranger in the CDC to be your emergency contact
  • The smell of jet fuel/gunpowder
  • Not having to worry about your power bill in the winter (God bless base housing!)
  • Having a chance to start over every 2-4 years
  • Curtains in every style, for every room
  • Starbucks mugs from all over the world
  • Frequent flyer miles and hotel points from PCSing and visiting family so much
  • Cheap lunch at the chow hall (best date ever!)
  • The National Anthem before a movie begins
  • That one spouse who knows how to make all the baked goods
  • Friends who bring wine on bad days
  • Not having to explain how you are feeling because the other spouses ‘get it’
  • Irreverent military humor
  • Seeing other people stop and thank a service member (thank you, humanity)
  • When the colors play on base and seeing everyone stop/stand at attention
  • Commissary prices!
  • Running into an old military spouse friend at your new installation
  • All the kick-butt women in uniform!
  • Gold Star families
  • Getting into base housing without a wait list!
  • The ability for dependents to continue their education, thanks to the Post 9/11 GI Bill
  • Hourly child care on base (and the awesome people who work there!)
  • Friends who open their doors during the holidays when you can’t make it home to family
  • When you find out your spouse made the list to be promoted, take a command, etc.
  • Having a Christmas card list a mile long because you have moved so many times and have THAT MANY FRIENDS you still keep in contact with
  • The unique furnishings, or souvenirs, you pick up from different assignments, TDYs, etc., around the world
  • When your spouse shows up to your child’s sporting event in uniform (because they are racing home from work), and random people come up and thank him or her for their service.
  • Planning a PCS move and stopping to stay with military friends along the way to your new home.

Do any of these reasons hit home for you? What would you add to this list?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager