Tried and True Holiday Lessons From Military Families

Celebrating the holidays remotely? Boy, is it something military families understand! In early November, the country came to terms with the reality of spending every holiday from Thanksgiving onward apart from loved ones.

Meanwhile, military families stood placidly, a wise smile on their faces, saying to our fellow Americans, “Welcome to our world.”

Of course, service members and their families are used to the idea of sacrifice, even if we don’t always understand or see the point. Sometimes, we only understand why we went through something when it’s in the rearview mirror. It may be as simple–but important–as the fact that our tough times equipped us to help others in a similar situation later on.

Take now, for instance. Due to deployments and assignments to far-flung locations, many military spouses know what it’s like to spend holidays in their own homes with only their immediate family, as opposed to traveling for large gatherings with family and old friends.

Once more, it would seem, the family members of the uniformed services must answer the call to sacrifice. However, sacrifice doesn’t have to take place in isolation. Everything we go through or go without can be useful.


By finding a way to give it meaning. In the case of military families, offering our experience to the nation–our “lessons learned,” in military speak–can have enormous value for our countrymen and women.

Here are some tried-and-true remote holiday lessons learned, hardwon by real military families through deployments, PCS moves, and every other thing Murphy could throw at them. Now, those hard times are infused with new meaning, because they are able to share them with others who can learn from their experiences.

Service members and their families have been video chatting almost as long as the technology has been available, so we won’t waste your time with those kinds of ideas. Chances are, you’re already organizing a Zoom family holiday dinner as you read this. Here are some outside-the-box ideas that will make this a holiday to remember.

Look Outward

Often, a helpful way to shake the blues is to focus on the needs of others. These days, there’s no shortage of people who need help or a reminder that someone cares about them. Find out if there’s a way you can volunteer (safely) in your community.

Get Organized!

Or, you could make your own volunteer opportunity.

There is no shortage of opportunities to help someone. Organize a contactless dropoff clothing drive from your front porch. Send a care package to an elderly neighbor or family member who lives alone, who may feel especially lonely right now.

It seems it’s always easiest to get creative when it comes to helping others!

Practice Gratitude

Are Advent calendars part of your family’s holiday tradition? Why not do a reverse one this year?

Every day leading up to your family celebration, invite your family members to share something for which they’re grateful. You could even make it a closed family group chat, so loved ones around the country (and the world!) can connect over gratitude.

Another option–have a charity donation box or jar in your house. Every Saturday during the holiday season, end your week as a family doing something for others. Together, choose a charity to receive your family donation at the end of the holiday season. Then, invite family members to contribute from their allowances (or their disused travel fund).

This is another instance in which other family members can participate remotely. Have them set up a phone reminder to Venmo their donation every week. If they forget, come up with a fun penalty–perform an original rap for the group over Zoom, perhaps?

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

Host a New Year’s Eve cocktail party–virtually! Make it festive by sending out a signature cocktail recipe ahead of time. That way, you’re all toasting with the same drink!

New Year’s Day, you can celebrate in-person, safely, with a First Day Hike. Outdoor gatherings are thought to be safer for gatherings than indoors, so invite a small group to join you for a hike at a local state or national park.

Keep the group small, and follow the park’s rules when it comes to social distancing and face masks. Each family can pack a camp stove so they make coffee, hot cocoa, or roast s'mores at the halfway point!

This holiday season will be unlike years past. However, there’s no reason you can’t be safe and healthy while making memories. Then–spread the wealth. If you know someone who is struggling with the new normal, let them know what’s worked or working for you.

In these uncertain times, Armed Forces Insurance is standing by to help. Give yourself the gift of peace of mind this holiday season with AFI Insurance Products.