celebrating holidays in the military

Celebrating Holidays in the Army…or Forgetting Them Entirely

It’s that time of year again. While many soldiers are returning from Iraq (though most are not quite in time for the holidays), thousands are still deployed to Afghanistan and other places around the globe.

Forgetting Christmas

The deployment when my husband was overseas for the holidays was the toughest for me. It just completely changed the holiday season.

Unlike many of you who have kids, I could ignore the existence of any holiday. Or at least I tried.

Now that we have a son, I know I couldn’t do that as I would need to try to maintain some sense of normal for him. But when it was just me… Christmas? What’s that?

The Guilt of “Normalcy”

My family wanted me to come home so I wouldn’t be alone. But I didn’t want anything to do with being around others who were filled with the Christmas spirit when my husband was on the other side of the world.

I knew his Christmas would suck, so I felt guilty carrying on normally.

It’s strange – it was the only time during the deployment when I felt guilty for what I could do that he couldn’t.

I didn’t feel that way if I went out to eat, to a movie, or to the beach. But the holidays were different. I didn’t want to have to put on a fake smile for everyone and soldier on.

So I didn’t.

I stayed at home by myself. I went to watch movies at the theater. I baked cookies for the guards at the gate and others who had to work on Christmas day. And for anyone who knows me, you know how big of a feat it was for me to cook anything!

The One Bright Spot

The one thing that helped me through was knowing that because my husband was gone, it meant someone else’s husband was home.

Some kids were probably without their mom or dad last year that were with them this year, partly because my husband was doing his part.

My advice – especially if it’s just you – is to do whatever will make you feel better.

If that means surrounding yourself with family, go for it.

If it means staying in your PJs all day, crying over sappy movies, and eating your weight in chocolate (an affiliate link to the best ones!), that’s okay, too, in my book.

If you have kids, let them know they get a special treat this year and will get to celebrate Christmas twice. 😉

What do you do to make the holidays more bearable? What advice would you share with a spouse enduring her first set of holidays alone?

author avatar
Stacey Abler
Stacey's husband joined the Army in 2003 and was medically retired after four deployments. She enjoys sharing her experiences and expertise around Army life while continuing to support Army spouses and families in their military journey.

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