We missed my son so much the first Christmas he was assigned to a Germany duty station. He spent it in Germany, while the rest of us celebrated a traditional Christmas at home.
Our holiday felt odd without him there. Between the tears and strong emotions, we got through Christmas with video and phone calls.
I came to the realization that my son’s Army career meant the future years of Christmas, other holidays, and birthdays would not be the same. Instead of brooding about it, we found new ways to celebrate!
From Christmas to birthdays, and everything in between, our family found festive ways to celebrate and create new holiday traditions!
New Christmas and Thanksgiving Traditions
It was early November one year, when my soldier prepared for a year long Afghanistan deployment. I flew cross-country to get the festivities started before he left. We put up a Christmas tree and his young children delighted in helping decorate it with ornaments from 3 generations of family.
Presents were spread around the tree and stockings were hung over the fireplace. The children were so excited!
We devoted one day to Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey and all the trimmings.
Working into the evening, we put together special gifts for the children. It would be a Christmas to remember!
As my soldier went off to Afghanistan, we held tight to the beautiful memories of our unique Thanksgiving / Christmas celebration. All that mattered was spending this time together as a family.
Thereafter, whenever he deployed during these holidays, we continued our tradition of celebrating before he left.
New Birthday Celebration Traditions
My soldier has children and they love celebrating birthdays! What happens when daddy is away for their birthday?
We came up with some new ways to celebrate kid’s birthdays whenever daddy was deployed.
- Celebrate half-birthday. If we knew in advance that daddy would be deployed for one of the kid’s birthdays, we’d have a big celebration for the half-birthday! It’s fun for everyone to celebrate at a different time of year!
- Special gifts from daddy. When daddy was deployed for their actual birthday, he always had a special gift, card, and message ready for the celebration.
- Celebrating whenever. We often celebrated birthdays whenever we could. Maybe someone’s birthday was in February and our deployed soldier arrived home in April. Then April was a fine time to celebrate and honor the birthday!
- Deployed soldier birthdays. When my soldier was deployed during his birthday, we always sent wonderful care packages with letters, kids drawings, and useful gifts. We would also celebrate at home together as a family when he returned home again.
You can celebrate birthdays at any time. It doesn’t have to be on the exact date! Kids are thrilled to have more than one birthday celebration and double the number of gifts!
The Gift of Gratitude Tradition
Our best and greatest tradition is the gift of gratitude. When my soldier was deployed to a combat zone, everyday was worrisome, filled with anxiety. We wanted to replace our worries with joy.
Christmas was the perfect time to start thinking about the joy in our lives and finding something to be thankful for. It could be something big or small.
A gratitude jar was ideal to jot down something we were thankful for and put it in the jar. After a long year away and a wonderful reunion with my soldier, he got to read all the things we were thankful for. They also told a story of the days of our lives while he was away.
For our family, our continued gratitude tradition lasts until he returns home safe again. It’s positive and a fun way to share with each other.