For me as a military wife, I value creating traditions. Military life can be challenging sometimes. Military families are constantly moving, and most of the time they are not stationed near their close family members, friends or even hometowns. Sometimes military families are even stationed in foreign countries that may not observe the same holidays as in the United States. Many service members deploy and are away for trainings or missions, or are at schools in different states. So it can be difficult for a military family to create traditions. The fact is our lives constantly change and can change in a snap. This is why I value traditions.
My Family Traditions
Family traditions bring a sense of unity and value to my family. I started off creating small traditions like having each family member pick out one new Christmas ornament each year. For my sons first Thanksgiving, I got a burlap table runner, painted one of his little hands, and turned the handprint into a hand turkey. Since then, I've added a new hand turkey every year, and have even continued the tradition by adding my younger daughter's handprint as an addition every Thanksgiving since she was born.
My favorite tradition is my family’s annual holiday card. I'm not talking about the box kind of cards that you pick up from the store. Every year my family and I get our holiday photos taken, and turn them into a special card. We usually take our photos between the middle of October or early November. Then our cards are sent out the day after Thanksgiving. We send them out early as a Military family, because we have family and friends all over the world, and some places take longer to get mail delivered especially around the holiday season.
In recent years we started taking pictures in places that best represent where we are stationed at the time. We've taken photos on the beaches in Okinawa, Japan, and even in the almond orchards in Bakersfield, California where my husband recruited out of. One of my favorite holiday photos was taken in the desert of Lancaster, California with beautiful cacti in the background.
When Compromise is the Only Option
Two years ago I thought that my family wouldn't be able to continue in our yearly tradition because my husband was deployed to the Middle East, while my kids and I were living on Camp Pendleton in California. However, sending out a family holiday card without my husband wasn’t an option for me. I really didn't want to use an old family photo because my kids are still young, so I had to get my husband in on our family tradition somehow even though he was thousands of miles away. So, I decided that I was going to make two banners. One that said “happy” and the other banner said “holidays.” I sent my husband one of the banners and had him take a picture with it. My kids and I took a photo holding the other banner. Then I merged the pictures together and our family tradition continued!
My husband is deployed again this year and we are already planning on using the banners again. One of the things that I like about our family holiday cards, is when we send our cards out to our close friends and families, we are including them into our tradition even though we are miles apart. They get an update on our family. They get to see how much our kids have grown since the last card (again, sometimes we are stationed oceans away so they don’t get to see our kids in person). So our family and friends get a glimpse of where we are stationed at the time from the background in our photos.
New and Continuing Traditions
Throughout the years I saved a few copies of each of our holiday cards, and I accidentally started a new tradition. Now I have made each one of my kids a book of our holiday cards. When my kids are older they'll have a book filled with wonderful family memories, where they'll be able to see what they looked liked when they were younger, and where we lived throughout the years so they will remember the family tradition that we created together. They can also continue adding to their books by creating a new tradition, adding new cards with the families they create when they are older.
Creating family traditions doesn't have to be extravagant. It can be as simple as a hand turkey or a family photo. Anything that you do that brings your family together, making new memories, is creating traditions that will last a lifetime.