Traditions are comforting, especially for kids and families that move around a lot and don’t get to spend the holidays with loved ones – like military families.
As a military family, it’s hard to create traditions because we’re not always in the same place. We can’t put our tree in the same spot every year or go to the same tree farm or see the same light display. We don’t even know if we’ll all be together for the holidays.
So, I’ve put together a list of Christmas traditions for military families that you can do every year no matter where you’re at and regardless if you’re together or apart.
Christmas Tree Duty Station Ornaments
One of my favorite Christmas traditions that my military family does is document our PCS journey on our Christmas tree.
We buy a Christmas ornament at every place we’ve been stationed that represents that state/area. Every year we decorate the tree together and we always talk about where we found the ornament and reminisce about the time we spent at that duty station.
Last year, after a PCS from hell, we collected all of the furniture stickers we could find and made a PCS ball for our tree! The kids loved finding all the stickers and were excited to see it when we pulled it out again this year. It’s a neat reminder of all of the places we’ve lived and makes us giggle when we see it!
See Some Christmas Lights
Another Christmas tradition for military families that can be done no matter where you’re stationed is to find some Christmas lights!
Whether it’s a ‘professional’ light displays or just a neighborhood full of Christmas spirit, there are bound to be some lights at or near every duty station, so make it an annual tradition to go see some together as a family.
And do it YOUR way! One of my friends at Fort Bragg said that her family wears pajamas and drinks hot chocolate while they drive around and look at lights in Fayetteville. And I think that is such a sweet tradition!
Make a Special Meal or Dish
One of the worst parts of military life for us is sometimes missing out on Christmas back home with our extended family.
My family did the exact same thing every year when I was growing up:
- Christmas Eve: dinner at my Granny’s (traditional meal)
- Christmas morning: open presents from Santa & mom made cinnamon rolls
- Christmas afternoon: lunch at my Papa’s (traditional meal)
- Christmas night: dinner at my Nana’s (non-traditional; pizza and lasagna)
To this day, this is still the schedule when we go home for Christmas. But on the years that we can’t be home, we never know where we’ll end up. Sometimes a sweet friend lets us crash their Christmas party. Sometimes we have a quiet holiday at home.
But no matter how we spend the day I try to make cinnamon rolls for breakfast (like my mom). And I make pumpkin rolls and Oreo balls for dessert after dinner.
So, pick a meal or dessert and try to make it every year, no matter where you are for Christmas.
Make an Ornament
This is a Christmas tradition that I WISH I had started with my girls.
Thankfully, they had some extra special teachers that made Christmas ornaments with them at school. And those are my absolute favorite ornaments on my tree.
Anything with their little hand or foot prints is precious! And photo ornaments are always adorable!
Let the Kids Decorate Their Own Mini Tree
This is one Christmas tradition that my kids LOVE no matter where we’re stationed at!
I let them have their own mini tree and they get to decorate it with whatever they want. When Lyvi was little she was dangerous with Christmas ornaments, so we decorated the little tree in her room with hairbows.
As they got older we let them go to Wal-Mart or Dollar Tree and pick out their own ornaments. We’ve done a candy theme, cartoon themes, and last year they topped their tree with their cowgirl hat because it was our first Texas Christmas.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make this special. One year we decorated their tree with ornaments they made from popsicle sticks!
20 More Christmas Tradition Ideas
- matching family pajamas
- make a gingerbread house
- write letters to Santa
- wrap up Christmas books or movies and read/watch one each night
- take siblings to buy gifts for each other
- do a Christmas scavenger hunt
- pick a special wrapping paper for each person
- build a fort with Christmas lights
- adopt a ‘Christmas angel’ or donate toys
- watch a Christmas movie long-distance over video chat
- send a Christmas care package
- bake and decorate Christmas cookies
- get an Elf on the Shelf
- get an advent calendar
- put up Christmas decorations together
- open one gift on Christmas Eve
- have a pajama party/sleepover with friends
- go on a winter hike
- leave out treats for Santa (& his reindeer)
- go to a local Christmas church service
I hope this list of non-location-specific Christmas traditions for military families helps you find something fun for your family to do during the holidays!