Moving is hard. Moving over the holidays is even harder. There are so many questions and things to consider. Do you decorate? Where do you ship presents? Will you be in a hotel or visiting family? Sometimes it feels easier just to skip the holiday season when it comes in the middle of a move.
I know, I’ve been there.
My husband and I got married (12 years ago) over holiday block leave. It was also over his PCS leave from Washington State to Arizona. We got married in Virginia, took a quick honeymoon cruise, and then flew to Washington and drove to Arizona. I still had an apartment in Virginia when we got married, so I bought a little 3-foot tree, decorated it, and felt a little Christmas-y.
The next year, we received orders for Germany and were to report in early January. Once again, we packed up and traveled cross-country from Arizona to Virginia and then on to Europe. We didn’t have much in the way of decorations or anything really, so we didn’t think much about being festive in our apartment before it was packed up.
We went home to family, who thankfully lived only two hours apart, and enjoyed the traditions and decorations of our childhood, together. Our family was excited about the next chapter, but it was still kind of surreal that we were out on our own, just visiting home.
Our first year in Germany brought us two deployments and a new baby. Of course, the second deployment was over Christmas, so I packed up and went ‘home.’ I helped decorate several houses, made cookies with my mother-in-law, spoiled my niece, and spent time with my grandparents. Again, it was a Christmas spent out of my house, with my family, it was nice but weird.
Two years later over Christmas, we moved again, this time from Germany to Maryland. We were able to enjoy the Christmas markets, parties, and fun with friends in Germany before we left, around the 20th. I didn’t decorate, but we did still have that little 3’ tree from four years before. We were set to enjoy our first Christmas as a family of four, visiting with family again. Of course, Murphy struck, and my husband broke his foot during the final out process in Germany. He spent Christmas at Landstuhl, and I flew home (with two babies, but that’s another story) and spent the time with my family.
He flew to Walter Reed a few days later, and we had ‘Christmas morning’ together on the 27th. Needless to say, we’ve remained flexible about when we celebrate the holidays. Since that holiday season, we’ve spent each and every Christmas in our own home. Luckily, we haven’t moved over the holidays again (yet).
One year, we hosted a huge celebration. Other years it’s just the kids and us celebrating. Luckily, my husband has not yet worked Staff Duty on Christmas morning. But I’m fully prepared for that day. I’ll bring a tree, and Santa will beat us there. We’ll have breakfast, open presents, etc. together. Nothing stands in my way when there is a chance to be together.
All in all, I think it is super important to create the right holiday environment for your family, and then adapt it each time it comes around. Young kids will worry about how Santa may get to them if they’re moving. Older kids are going to be bummed about missing out on festivities with their friends. Extended family may not understand why you can’t make a trip to see them over the course of your move.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from the last decade or so of military holiday seasons, it is this: time spent together is what matters, not where, or when, or with what background.
Happy Holidays to you all, wherever you may be!
Rebecca Alwine is a freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. She’s a contributing writer for ARMY Magazine, a regular contributor for several publications including to Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, ESME, and has also been published in Ms. Magazine and The Atlantic. You can follow her online at www.whatrebeccathinks.com.