Away From Home for the Holidays … and Still Celebrating!


My family and I enjoy holidays, but we love the Christmas season. The lights and decorations; the cheer and spirit; the food and family. Something about this time of year and season is just a little magical. I look forward to our traditions and celebrations every year.

The best part of the Christmas season is the time with family and friends. But what if you are far away during this time of year?

My husband and I were fortunate during our early years of marriage. Our first assignment  was only an eight hour drive from home. It was easy to make it home for holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations. In the event that we could not be there, part of our family would travel to us. It was a wonderful opportunity to share traditions and experiences with our first child.

My girls at a Christmas market in Germany.

Our next assignment was not as close. We started spending more holidays on the phone and Skype and less in person. I dreaded spending those special days apart from our family and our traditions. I missed our Christmas Eve celebration with my in-laws. I noticed how quiet our Christmas mornings were without my entire family shredding through presents at warp speed. I wanted the dinner and the games with my cousins, aunts, and uncles.

I do not think you realize just how much you enjoy your holidays with family until you are not present for them.

I quickly realized that if I did not want to lose my joy for Christmas and the season, I would have to make it Christmas – our Christmas. We have traditions that can be held anywhere: Christmas cookie baking all month (if you live near us, you are a recipient of at least one plate); putting up our decorations and our tree the day after Thanksgiving; and a Christmas morning breakfast of cinnamon rolls, bacon, and tons of coffee for Mom. We use a few from my husband’s and my own childhoods, such as opening one present on Christmas Eve or letting each child purchase their own ornament each year, to still feel connected to our home. 

My son enjoying our Christmas cookie baking tradition!

We also have picked up new traditions from our different assignments. The girls loved celebrating St. Nicholas Day in Germany by leaving their shoes out the night of December 5; in the morning, their shoes were filled with candy (except for the year that our dog reached the shoes before the girls). Now we do it every year! 

A screenshot of our Christmas morning with Dad. He opened presents with us while in Korea!

And we use technology…we love technology!

Holidays can now be shared through video in real time. We have FaceTimed or Skyped my husband or our families during Christmas morning and day multiple times. It may not be the same as sitting there with them, but it is pretty close. How wonderful is it to pick up a phone and see your family at any time of day?

My family and I have and will spend more holidays apart. With distance, deployments, rising transportation costs, and conflicting schedules – it does not always work in our favor. Yet every year, we continue to love the Christmas season and celebrate it. It really does not matter what holiday you follow or where you enjoy it. If you are home or away for the holidays, you can still celebrate!

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Rachel Carpenter
Rachel has been an Air Force spouse for 17 years. Her husband's career had taken them to many assignments around the world, and she currently lives in Hawaii. She is a mother of four children; their ages range from fifteen to four years old, so her life is often exciting and challenging. She holds a BA in English and a MA in Management. When not busy with work or her family, she enjoys volunteering within the military community and has even been a Key Spouse at two stations. Rachel has always enjoyed writing and literature, and she is happy to find this community to combine these interests. She has been featured on We Are The Mighty, Her View From Home, AMSE, The Beautifull Project, Hand-in-Hand QC, and other publications - but The Military Mom Collective is her home. :)