During the month of December thousands of US troops are heading home just in time for the holidays. This past week hundreds of military families were reunited with Soldiers returning to Fort Wainwright after a year-long deployment to Iraq. These military families will receive the best present of all this Christmas, however still others will be spending the holidays with their loved one far away.
How do you celebrate the holidays if your spouse is days away from deploying or will be returning a week or two after Christmas Day?
Here are some ideas on how to include them in the celebration:
It is okay to celebrate early, or even late. When our youngest was having a birthday, just after my husband was scheduled to leave on a deployment, we decided to celebrate early - a month early. We had a full birthday party complete with 10 boys camping out in our backyard. My husband was able to coordinate and supervise a series of night time events that included: pitching tents, the writing of a watch bill, "qualifying" with an Airsoft pellet gun, a midnight soccer game, and making steak and eggs on the grill for breakfast.
Pick a day on the calendar and decide that is the day you will celebrate. If that means you still have Christmas lights up outside in your bushes and on your house in mid January or early February that is okay. You can leave the tree up and presents waiting.
Have a smaller celebration on Christmas Day if you like, but have the grand finale when your loved one comes home.
If they are leaving before Christmas, open presents early and have a special Christmas dinner. You can also send a present or two out with your loved one with a label on the package indicating strict instructions: "Do Not Open 'Til Christmas".
The more deployments and separations we experience, the more we learn and the more creative we become.
Celebrating Christmas on Christmas isn't what is most important. It is remembering the reason for season and finding a way to celebrate in whatever way works for your family.
How are you celebrating the holidays this year? Is your spouse home or away? Share your thoughts and advice on how to celebrate when a loved one is not home for holidays.