Thanksgiving, Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa -- almost everyone has a holiday to celebrate at the end of the year. It's a time of shopping, and entertaining; a time of traditions and expectations. We want to do things the way they've always been done. Go to the same places. Eat the same treasured family favorites. But when you're living out of boxes during the holidays, sometimes you need to be open-minded about your game plan. You need not lower your expectations, but you should be flexible with them.
Identify your deal breakers. Think about what your nonnegotiables are for a "proper" holiday celebration. Which items are the most important to you? Choose a few to keep with you. Small items like ornaments move with you easily and take up a small amount a space. Have a family heirloom for the holidays? If you've not yet finished packing up for a move, make sure to set these items aside to travel with you rather than being packed and shipped separately. If you're already staring at boxes from a recent move, find these items now and worry about unpacking all the other things later.
Repeat this same thought process for the intangible things. What do you need to include as part of any celebration or entertaining over the holidays? Is it certain music? A large or small gathering of people? A football game? You can create the essence of what you want without replicating a "typical" celebration. Keeping those activities and items the same, it will be easier make this season meaningful for you.
Host a potluck meal. Leave the good dishes in the boxes and spring for some paper plates and plastic utensils. There are compostable plates too! Offer to provide the venue and the beverages and have everyone bring enough of their favorite holiday dishes to share with a crowd. Assign each person a specific thing and you can pull off a four-course meal. Leave them to their own designs and you can enjoy a dessert-only smorgasbord. (There are worse ways to celebrate the holidays than with too many cookies.) Make sure to extend an invitation to local service members or military families separated from their friends and family this time of year. It's a particularly difficult time to be away from the ones you love.
Get out into the community. Ask your neighbors how the locals celebrate the holidays. Who has the house with the over-the-top decorations? Is there caroling in Victorian-era outfits? A local menorah lighting or live nativity scene? A 5K Turkey Trot you might be interested in running? Participating in local events will give you a new sense of community, and helps you get in the swing of things and connect with others.
Embrace the local traditions. Are you familiar with the tradition of hiding a glass pickle ornament on a Christmas tree? The person who finds it gets to claim a special prize. There's some dispute about the history of that particular tradition; it has often been associated with Germany, but some attribute it to a Civil War soldier who was fond of pickles. Did you know that Berrien Springs, Michigan proudly proclaims itself the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World? Find your new town's Christmas pickle equivalent. Buy a local-style tree (like in Hawaii where they cut the top 5' off of a 200' Norfolk pine tree to decorate). Order KFC like many families do in Japan. Sculpt radish figures like they do in Oaxaca City, Mexico. Wherever you now call home, take in all the unique traditions and experiences and make them your own.
Go on a family adventure. You could embrace the new location and jump into exploring the local area. Take the new move and change up the holidays by exploring where you are. Throw your children, partner and pets in the car and set off on an adventure. Sleep under the stars (or in a fancy hotel). Go hiking. Go scuba diving. Go antiquing. Whatever it is that your family considers quality time -- do that.
Give back. No matter where you call home, make sure to include some way of giving back in your plans for the season. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen. Donate toys to Toys for Tots. Encourage any guests to bring canned goods when they visit to donate to your town's food bank. Open your doors to those who have no one to share the holidays with. People caring for each other -- that is what makes this time of year truly magical.
Living out of boxes can be frustrating. It can force you to change your plans for celebrating as you usually do. But it can also open doors to new relationships, new experiences and a bigger world for you.
-- This article originally appeared on the Millie Journal.
Keep Up with the Ins and Outs of Military Life
For the latest military news and tips on military family benefits and more, subscribe to Military.com and have the information you need delivered directly to your inbox.