Navigating the many traditions, events, and ceremonies that come with this time year can add stress to an already busy time. These simple military holiday etiquette tips will help make the holiday season a breeze.
1. Open Communication
So much happens in December: holiday parties, military balls, trips to see family and visitors, etc. Mixups and scheduled conflicts are all too easy to make. Regular, consistent, and clear communication between you and any individuals you need to coordinate with is key to preventing such issues. For example, let your family know your holiday plans as early as possible. Will you travel or stay home? If there’s a specific event or tradition important to you, let your spouse know early. And repeatedly. If you work or volunteer, give your supervisor plenty of notice regarding planned or potential holiday-related availability changes.
2. Sensible Gift Giving
As much as there is to love about the holiday season, it is always a bit of a budget strain. To say the least. Parties held this time of year often include gift exchanges, cookie swaps, or general group contributions of food, etc. These obligations can add up to big bucks. So be realistic about your budget and prioritize what is most important to your family. If you need to scale back on presents for your extended family and beyond, just let them know ahead of time. Consider sending a heartfelt, personal card instead. After all, it really and truly is the thought that counts.
3. Military Holiday Balls
It’s always fun to dress up and party down at one of the countless unit/base holiday parties at each and every post across the military. But, no matter how much fun you plan on having, keep in mind it is still a work related event. So here’s a quick bullet list of reminders to get you through a ball:
- Dress appropriately: Think classy. Black tie level in general. And service members need to plan ahead. Have that uniform dry cleaned and pressed in time.
- Moderation: Eat, drink, and be merry. But be smart about it. Senior personnel from your/your spouse’s unit will be there.
- Know the Traditions: If this is your first military ball, be aware that they can be pretty regimented. Know what time the formal portion starts so you can be in your seat. Read the program. Learn about the incorporated ceremonies.
- Meet Your Table Mates – It can feel awkward, getting all dressed up to eat a meal at a table with people know casually if at all. Ask them a question or two. Strike up a conversation. Make some new friends.
4. Military Work Hours Never Change
The kids want to go see the Christmas lights across town, you have tons of shopping 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. They probable have families of their own just as impatient as yours to enjoy the holiday festivities. Some units do scale back activities during the season to allow more people to take leave and half days. But the military always has a mission and duties that need to get done. With that in mind, keep your timelines flexible as possible and enjoy the time you do get together. Many military families are separated by deployment, TDY, and field training over the holidays. If you’re lucky enough to be together (even if it’s only after work hours) during this holiday season, don’t take it for granted.
5. Manageable Charitable Holiday Giving
The military community, with our characteristic generosity, is behind a wide variety of charitable organizations and programs. Most of these focus on fundraising or collecting food/gifts during the holidays to benefit the underprivileged. And you may hear so many donation requests it’s overwhelming. Everyone wants to give during the holiday season, but the sheer number of requests can make it difficult for one person/family to meet them all. It is perfectly okay to select just one or two charitable efforts to support and politely declining the rest.
6. Commander’s New Year Reception
This particular party is a fairly common military tradition. Receptions are typically held sometime in early January and hosted by your/your spouse’s unit commander. These are daytime formal events, usually scheduled on a weekend from mid-morning to early afternoon. Generally speaking, they’re a mandatory event for service members and spouses are invited as well. There will probably be a receiving line, with each guest shaking the hand of the host and groups of guests enjoying their hospitality for 30 minutes or so. Know the specifics of your unit’s event (when to arrive, how long to stay, etc.) and stick to the schedule.
Despite the busy schedule, crazy parking lots and extra traffic, the holiday season offers us an opportunity to spend time with family and friends. So savor this time of year while it lasts and enjoy every minute of it you can.