25 Christmas Traditions for Military Families

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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 spouse, 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 stationed, regardless if you’re together or apart.

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Christmas Tree Duty Station Ornaments

One of my favorite Christmas traditions that my military family does is to document our PCS journey on our Christmas tree.

We buy a Christmas ornament at every duty station that represents that state/area. When we decorate the tree together, we inevitably talk about the different ornaments 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 the ornament when we pulled it out again this year. It’s a neat reminder of all of the times we’ve moved and makes us giggle when we see it!

Christmas traditions for military families: buy an ornament at every duty station
Fort Polk, Louisiana
PCS ornament for military family's Christmas tree
PCS Ornament
Our home state – Florida

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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!

Here at Fort Cavazos, we are enjoying the BLORA lights at Belton Lake. When we go home for Christmas, we walk through the Christmas Reflections light display in my hometown.

Whether it’s a ‘professional’ light display or just a neighborhood full of Christmas spirit, there are bound to be some lights at or near every duty station. Make it an annual tradition to find some together as a family.

And do it YOUR way! One of my friends at Fort Liberty 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!

Christmas traditions for military families: going to see Christmas lights
(Lyvi seeing Christmas lights in 2014.)
(Lyvi seeing Christmas lights 2021.)

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Make a Special Meal or Dish

One of the worst parts of military life is missing out on holidays 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 in 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.

No matter how we spend the day, I try to make cinnamon rolls for breakfast (like my mom). I also 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.

Christmas traditions for military families: baking together.
(Making pumpkin rolls – Christmas 2016.)
(Making pumpkin rolls – Christmas 2018.)

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Make an Ornament

This is a Christmas tradition that I WISH I had started with my girls.

Thankfully, they had some extra special teachers who made Christmas ornaments with them at school. And those are my absolute favorite ornaments on my tree.

Anything with their little hand or footprints is precious! And photo ornaments are always adorable!

(The girls made these ornaments in 2016!)

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Let the Kids Decorate Their Own Mini Tree

This is one of the Christmas traditions for military families that my kids LOVE no matter where we’re stationed!

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 ornaments. We’ve done a candy theme and 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!

Christmas traditions for military families: let the kids decorate their own mini tree
(Lainey loved her tree so much in 2014 that she hugged it!)
(They put a cowgirl hat on their rainbow tree, because…Texas!)

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20 More Christmas Traditions for Military Families

  1. wear matching family pajamas
  2. make a gingerbread house
  3. write letters to Santa
  4. wrap up Christmas books or movies and read/watch one each night
  5. take siblings to buy gifts for each other
  6. do a Christmas scavenger hunt
  7. pick a special wrapping paper for each person
  8. build a fort with Christmas lights
  9. adopt a ‘Christmas angel’ or donate toys
  10. watch a Christmas movie long-distance over video chat
  11. send a Christmas care package
  12. bake and decorate Christmas cookies
  13. get an Elf on the Shelf
  14. do a scavenger hunt advent calendar
  15. put up Christmas decorations together
  16. open one gift on Christmas Eve
  17. have a pajama party/sleepover with friends
  18. go on a winter hike
  19. leave out treats for Santa (& his reindeer)
  20. go to a local Christmas church service

I hope this list of Christmas traditions for military families helps you find something fun for your family to do during the holidays!

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