I was recently contacted by Care.com (linked to their military page) to share about some the of challenges of being a military spouse during the holidays. Their site contains several resources for military families to connect and find support as well as tips and tricks on dealing with the holidays during deployments, homecomings, and being far from family. Check out the Holiday Boot Camp for the Military Spouse to read advice and stories on how others have dealt with their situations. There's also a wonderful resource on Getting Through the Holidays Alone.
Let's be honest.
Sometimes going through the holidays as a military spouse can be hard. Thankfully, after moving back to the states it has been better since we have been able to fly home to spend time with our families.
That wasn't always the case and may not be in the future either.
Let me take you back to my first Christmas as a military spouse.
I was 20 years old and had been married for about nine months. We had just moved to JAPAN less than four months before the holiday. Those early dreams I had of Christmas with stockings by a fireplace, cutting down our own Christmas tree, beautiful decorations, visiting family... those all went away pretty quick.
Our base housing did not have fireplaces. In fact, we were 6 floors up in a tower. The only Christmas trees available were fake expensive ones at the BX-tra, teensy-tiny ones off-base, or the pre-cut real ones.
We opted for one of the real ones. "Fresh" pine smell filling the house and a sense of home. I mean, we just moved from the Pacific Northwest!
What I learned later is that the trees were cut down before Thanksgiving and literally shipped to Japan from the states. They weren't exactly "fresh" by any means. By the time Christmas actually arrived we had been avoiding walking by the tree for days. Just the rush of air would send those needles shedding to the floor. It was so very, very sad.
Also what we learned that year is the BX would put out their Christmas decorations BEFORE Halloween. If you waited until after Thanksgiving to get your decorations for your first Christmas you were out of luck. And on that note: if a store no longer has hooks for your decorations, paper clips do just as well.
I was fairly depressed that year. Coming from a HUGE family that fully celebrates Christmas I was nearly devastated to only have my husband at the house while living in a foreign country with a sad, dead Christmas tree on Christmas Day.
Yes, tears were shed. Phone calls from family back home just made me more homesick.
To make me feel better, after Christmas, when all those beautiful fake trees went clearance, Ryan and I snatched up a lovely one for ourselves (and we still have it).
Since that year we have had other memorable Christmases; some good and some bad. We have made attempts to truly make each year better -- getting the fake tree helped! One year we even took a mini getaway during Christmas. Now that we have kids we are more invested in our own family traditions which really makes the season fun. Being involved in activities is also a great way to improve on a Christmas away from family. Volunteering with church productions, baking cookies for single airmen in the base dorms, inviting friends over for dinner/parties, looking at Christmas light displays, and often there are local seasonal experiences such as seeing the Nutcracker, going to a Tree Lighting, and caroling at retirement homes which all help make the Christmas holiday brighter.
It may not replace being near family when you're far away but I have personally found several of these options to increase the joy of the season. They also make for great memories!