Deployed for the Holidays: Making the Most with a ‘Happy Thankmas’ Tradition

My husband and I have been married 16 years and done seven deployments together since we got engaged. Of those seven deployments, he has been gone for Christmas six times. I’m beginning to think next to his name it says, “Deploy on Christmas.” The funny (or not so funny) thing is my husband loves Christmas, especially all the family traditions. He knows when he’s going to watch certain holiday movies, which of his favorite foods he’ll eat, and he has a knack for picking out the perfect Christmas tree.

Our second deployed Christmas happened in 2001. We had just been married in May and he wasn’t scheduled to deploy until January of 2002. Then September 11th happened and that all changed. The weekend before he was supposed to leave, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, so to combat those feelings, I suggested we make a nice dinner and exchange presents with each other. Of course, his response was, “But I don’t have a present for you!”

So the first stop was the mall to buy presents, then the grocery store to buy food, then we headed home. That was our first “Happy Thanksmas.,” as we called it. It wasn’t fancy–just a nice dinner and each exchanging a few presents on the couch (nothing was even wrapped).

The name Happy Thanksmas didn’t come to me until a few years later on our next deployed Christmas when my oldest child was 18 months old. This time, I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, but was feeling sorry for my husband missing Christmas with us. I put a little more planning into this next one, invited my parents to join us, and decided this could be our family tradition. I bought all the fixings for Thanksgiving dinner, decorated the house for Christmas, and wrapped presents for our daughter and for my husband. It was a really nice day, and one I will always remember.

We’ve did Happy Thanksmas four more times since then. In that time, our family has grown, but Happy Thanksmas has, too. I am pretty efficient at prepping for our holiday and making it the most special day it can be. Two deployments ago, I had a mental struggle because my son was getting an Xbox for Christmas, which is a pretty big gift. I wanted to wait until actual Christmas to give it to him, but knew my husband would want to be there to see him open it and play the first game with him. (And to be honest, if we had waited I am not sure that I would have been able to connect it to the TV!) So then all three had to get pretty comparable gifts to the Xbox, a lot of planning went it to that one.

I am not going to lie, each deployment I still wake up Christmas morning sad not to be sharing the day with my husband. I am sad for him that he doesn’t get to see the joy on our children’s faces as they race down the stairs. But as military spouses, we somehow figure out how to make the best of it–that’s our motto, right?! I’m sure there are people out there that think I am crazy, and that’s okay…because it works for us. We are still making family memories and isn’t that what’s most important?

What kind of traditions does your family do when your servicemember is deployed for the holidays?

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