There is so much going in November and December: holiday parties, military balls, trips to see family and visitors. It is so very easy for things to become shuffled in the process. The key to maintaining relationships when people are stressed by their to do list is regular, consistent and clear communication. Let your family know your plan for the holidays as early as possible. Will you be traveling or staying home (so they know if they will need to ship gifts)? If you have a specific event or tradition that is important to you, let your spouse know early and know that you might have to repeat the request. If you volunteer, give your contact plenty of notice if your availability will change this month due to the holiday, kids being out of school or travel.
I try to keep as much communication as possible this time of year in writing – especially email, so the recipient can easily refer back to it. If it comes up in personal conversation, don’t hesitate to follow up with an email to ensure that dates are correctly received.
2. Gift Giving
As much as there is to love about the holiday season, it can quickly become a budget strain. Many parties this time of year include gift exchanges or cookies exchanges. The obligations can quickly add up. It is reasonable and responsible to be realistic about your budget. Prioritize what is most important to your family. If you will be scaling back on extended family backs, just let your family know ahead of time and consider sending a personal letter instead.
3. Holiday Balls
Let’s talk Military Balls. There are a thousand articles (and some books) out there about the etiquette expected of service members and their dates at a Ball. It boils down to one concept: it is still a work related event.
- Dress appropriately – ladies, if you have to tape it to be decent for small children, it’s probably not a good idea.
- Service members – plan ahead to get your uniform dry cleaned and pressed.
- Eat, drink and be merry in moderation – This is still a work event and your boss will be there.
- Get familiar with the routine – If this is your first Ball, know what time the formal portion starts so you can be in your seat. Then, read the program. It will outline what will happen during the formal ceremony and you’ll enjoy it more if you understand what each tradition represents.
- Get to know your table mates – It can feel awkward sometimes, getting all dressed up to eat a meal at a table with people you’ve never met or only casually know. Take the time to ask them a question or two and strike up a conversation. It’ll make the night more fun for everyone.
4. Work Hours
The kids want to go see the Christmas lights, you have some shopping still to do and your service member still isn’t home from work. Don’t their bosses know it’s the holiday season?
Yes. They do. In fact, most of those senior NCOs & officers have families of their own that are also impatient to enjoy their service member’s time during holiday festivities. While many units scale back activities during the holiday season to allow more people to take leave and schedule half days, there is still a mission (even when they are home) and duties that need to get done. It can be frustrating, but where ever possible keep your time lines flexible and enjoy the time you do get together. There are so many of our military families separated by deployment, TDY and training even in this season – it’s good to occasionally remind ourselves that being together (even if it’s only after work hours) is what’s important.
5. Charitable Giving
The military community is so incredibly generous, which has produced a wide variety of nonprofit and charitable organizations and efforts. Most of these organizations are fundraising or collecting food/gifts during the holidays to serve the needs of the population they serve. At times, the requests can feel overwhelming. While we want to be generous during the holiday season, the sheer number of requests makes it difficult for one person or family to meet each of them. It is perfectly ok to select one or two charitable efforts to support and decline the others. But please be polite when declining giving opportunities, the people asking are trying to serve a need.
6. Commander’s New Year Reception
Closing out the holiday season, the New Year’s Reception is a common military tradition. Receptions are typically held in the first two weeks of January and hosted by the unit commander. These are daytime formal events, usually scheduled on a weekend from mid-morning to early afternoon. Generally the reception is a mandatory event for service members and spouses are invited as well.
With a large amount of people to meet and greet, units usually schedule groups of people to attend for a short period of time. There is a receiving line, with each guest shaking the hand of the host and enjoying their hospitality for 30 minutes to an hour. The key is to ensure that you are aware of the specifics of the event – when to arrive and how long to stay – and stick to that intended schedule!
Despite the busy schedule, crazy parking lots and extra traffic, the holiday season offers us an opportunity to spend time with family & friends.
What is the most challenging part of the holiday season for you?