by: Jessica Howington

I’ve seen a lot of articles floating around recently about recipes for a perfect holiday. Oddly enough, I haven’t read one that strikes a chord with the military lifestyle. Although I’d love to say that I have the secret to a perfect military holiday, I’ve realized that with this lifestyle it’s less about the recipe and more about the ingredients.

With our ability to adapt to new and exciting (and sometimes challenging) circumstances, our recipes change to create perfection. A dash of friends midst a deployment, a plane ride home when stationed OCONUS for one too many years, and a quiet holiday alone when we want to stay put. Military families can’t rely on a one-size-fits-all set of guidelines, as our lives don’t fit into any one mold. Rather, military family holiday traditions likely (by choice or not) vary from year to year.

So, rather than give you that perfect recipe for your holiday, I’ve got a lot of great ingredients to help you make the most of the recipe you’re working off of this year.

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At-Home Holiday
These are the holidays where you’ve decided to go home to visit family. You know, the home where your entire extended family will be for the holiday, and likely brings back childhood memories. These holidays, for many, are rare, but can be a great time to visit with everyone you rarely get to see. Yet, can be very stressful.

To make this your perfect holiday recipe you’ll need: approved leave, ability to travel, room to eat lots of yummy food, and patience—lots of patience.

Deployed Holiday
At one time or another, we’ve all had the deployed holiday. You think of how it’s been in prior years and wonder how you’ll survive this one. Surely, your deployed member is struggling too and you’ll be desperate to make it special for them as well—even while thousands of miles apart.

To make this your perfect holiday recipe you’ll need: a care package, a good bottle of wine, supportive friends and family, and a solid Internet connection.

Military Family Holiday
This is probably the most typical or “normal” of all military holiday recipes. Rather than with friends and family back home, you’re with your military family. You’ll likely attend someone’s’ party, cook for people at your place, and share in the unit’s festivities.

To make this your perfect holiday recipe you’ll need: a nice holiday party outfit, a commissary shopping trip (NOT on payday of course), a gift for the holiday exchange, tickets to the unit party, and childcare.

Not-So-Normal Military Holiday
These are the holidays where you look around and wonder what in the world is going on. You’re both at home, you don’t have plans to go anywhere or host anyone, and you have the ability to have a quiet holiday…alone. For some this is a very welcome event, and is just as rare as being able to go home for the holidays.

To make this your perfect holiday recipe you’ll need: your own traditional holiday decorations, a comfy couch, some hot chocolate, a good movie, and some interesting conversation.

Traveling Holiday
This holiday differs slightly from the at-home holiday. Rather than going back to a traditional setting with family and friends, a traveling holiday takes you to a place you’ve wanted to visit while experiencing new cultures, food, and activities. Many military families utilize leave time during the holiday season to explore the world around them, and this is one of my favorites!

To make this your perfect holiday recipe you’ll need: tickets for traveling, a stash of money, a camera, and a sense of adventure.

These are only a few of the many makings of a military holiday, and clearly not a “perfect recipe” that can be followed year after year. Rather, take the ingredients you possess, add that bit of flavor and heart you have, and twist that recipe into the perfection you want and need for this year alone—then enjoy! Happy Holidays!