Parenting Now!

Creating New Holiday Traditions As A Military Family

My family moves every 3 years. Sound exhausting? It is. As a military family, we have had to remake our home, both literally and figuratively, in such far-reaching places as Hawaii and Japan. We usually do so with little-to-no friends and family near by to help us. “Your holidays must be so glum and lonely,” you might say.

Nope! We’re pros at making each new place just like home, especially for the holidays. How? We learned long ago to take the lemons life hands out and… well, you know the rest.

To that end, we have several traditions in our house that help our 3 kids feel the vibe of the holidays even when friends and family might be too far away to share the season with us in person. Let’s take a look at a few of our favorites and where they came from:

Holiday Tree: Easy, right? You just go get one and decorate it. Nope! Not for us. Each year is different. One year we had only lights on the wall in the shape of a tree (because money was tight) and we pinned our ornaments within the shape. My favorite year? We hung our tree upside down from the ceiling. There was SO much space for gifts underneath and not ONE person came over without asking about it. I’m trying to convince my husband to have our tree outside this year. Imagine! A snow-covered tree and our presents sitting under it. He says I’m courting disaster.

Rituals: We are a pagan family. This means many of our spiritual traditions are completely our own. It took a few years and our kids getting older before we got it settled. But now we have a nightly ritual that begins December 1 and takes us all the way to the winter solstice.

Fun: We frequently look to other cultures. Saint Nicholas night, for example. On December 5, the kids put out their shoes (wooden Dutch-style shoes). In the morning, they are filled with fun stuff. This tradition was adopted for several reasons. One year, we just needed to have some celebration before Dad left (and would not be returning before Christmas). We loved it so much that we kept it and used it to replace stockings, which I had been trying to get rid of for years as they usually end up filled with junk and we constantly strive for everything in our house being purposeful. It also allowed us to spread out our celebrations, creating a more relaxed Christmas morning in our house. Who doesn’t need that?

Do you have places or experiences that inspire new traditions? Has fear ever stopped you from implementing it? Yeah, I’ve been there, too. But fear of “ruining” classic traditions can keep you from your own amazing style. Rest assured, I speak from experience when I say, the moment I let go of fear, our holiday traditions exploded. Don’t be afraid to break the mold. A friend of mine’s family always eats Christmas dinner at McDonald’s. Understandably, the first year her husband was away for the holidays, my friend was too overwhelmed to cook a feast for her family. So they went to McDonald’s—a special treat because they don’t normally eat there. And when the next year came around, the kids talked about how fun it had been. So they did it again, and have ever since!

Of course, never doing the same thing can also be a tradition… that’s how we approach Thanksgiving Dinner. But that’s another conversation altogether! Happy holidays!

Jenyfer Patton is a mother of 3, writer, and blogger.