The holidays are all about spending time with friends and family. Unfortunately, not all military families have the opportunity to have the whole family present. Having a family member deployed during the holidays can make it challenging to get in the holiday spirit. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to feel connected, from video calls to community potlucks, holiday packages, and upholding holiday traditions at home and overseas.
Stay in Touch Through Calls and Letters
One of the most difficult parts of being apart during the holidays is not spending quality time in-person. While nothing quite beats having everyone home for the holidays, there are plenty of ways to stay in touch.
When schedules align, set up a time to have a video call to see each other’s faces. During this time, try to do as many holiday things as possible together! Whether that’s reading your favorite holiday book out loud with the kids, opening a gift together, or even just sipping hot chocolate together while recounting stories. Keep your service member in the loop with holiday plans and day-to-day happenings to keep them engaged and involved in the holidays back home.
In the moments you are missing your deployed loved one and a call isn’t convenient, focus your energy on writing handwritten letters. Include a message and some holiday memorabilia such as family photos or a collection of homemade paper snowflakes. Save up a bundle of letters to send all at once for a sweet holiday surprise.
Create Holiday Military Care Packages for Troops
Alongside your handwritten letters, start preparing a holiday military care package or two. The joy of opening a gift over the holidays is rivaled by the joy of opening a care package from back home - so just imagine how great it is to combine the two! Military members have noted the boost in morale and a decrease in the holiday blues.
If you are creating a holiday care package for your deployed love one, consider what special things they may be missing by being away from home at this time. Some great items to include in your care package might be handwritten letters, their favorite baked goods (as long as they can keep long enough to be shipped), festive decorations, DIY holiday crafts from the kids, family photos, and even a pair of socks. Putting a holiday gift package together will also help you remember fond memories and feel like your loved one is near.
Spread the holiday spirit even further by creating more holiday care packages for troops. Not all service members will receive a care package, so help raise their spirits during this time. While you can’t get as personal with photos and favorite baked goods, create boxes filled with simple comforts and luxuries. New magazines/books/movies to pass the time, a collection of cozy winter gear like beanies and gloves, and fresh toiletries are all sure to remind service members of the love from back home.
Giving back is an essential practice during this season, and sometimes the best holiday gift is spreading a little love. No time to create a care package but still want to give to the troops? No problem! The USO and Operation Help a Hero both have holiday care package volunteering opportunities.
Organize a Military Family Community Potluck
The holiday season is all about spending time with people, so do just that! In your military family community, there will be other families with deployed family members during the holidays. Keep each other company while keeping spirits high by organizing a community potluck.
Have other military families from the neighborhood sign up for various holiday dishes and spend an evening celebrating together. Sing along to holiday tunes, catch up with old and new friends, provide festive activities for kids, and check out the local events in your Lincoln community to form an extended military family. Not only will this take your mind off of the holiday blues during deployment, but it will bring you closer to the other military families in the community as well.
In the weeks leading up to the potluck, run a supply drive that collects supplies for the troop holiday care packages mentioned earlier! During the meal, set up a care package assembly, where military family members can write handwritten season’s greetings and assemble boxes with items from the military supply drive.
Continue Your Family Traditions
One of the most effective ways to maintain the holiday spirit during deployment is upholding your family traditions. While it might not be the same without all family members present, doing the holiday activities that make you happy will help distract and keep your days merry and bright. This is especially important for keeping children in good spirits, as the holidays hold a special type of magic and excitement for them.
Host your annual gingerbread house competition, decorate the house, paint ornaments, bake cookies, sing carols, drive around to see the lights - whatever you would be doing if your military family member were home, still do it while they are deployed! Then, write one of those letters mentioned earlier to detail out all of your holiday activities. This way, your family member can experience the events through your eyes, and you won’t be missing out on a year of family traditions.
Along these same lines, start new traditions for this situation. Hopefully, holiday deployment doesn’t happen every year, but forming new deployment holiday traditions can make the season easier to manage when the time comes.
Maintaining the holiday spirit during deployment can be difficult on all parties, but there are plenty of ways to make the season a little brighter! Staying merry and joyful at home will spread the good cheer, especially to those deployed. The key things to focus on are communication, staying positive, getting involved with your community, and giving back.