Everyone else on my block may be finally hanging their Christmas lights, trimming their trees, or fishing out their favorite menorahs, but I'm not. I did that in October.
Because in our house, Christmas occurred in November.
The leaves may still have been on all the trees and most of you may have been thinking about Halloween, but we didn't let that stop Bing from crooning or the tree from getting trimmed. And it certainly didn't stop 14 family members from descending upon our home in their merriest Christmas cheer. The date didn't matter at all.
Because in our house, holidays stop for no one. Not even deployment orders. Just because my husband deployed before Thanksgiving didn't mean the holidays would be cancelled. If anything, because he's gone, we are that much more committed to celebrating them to their fullest. Not only did we have a big turkey (in fact, TWO big turkeys!) dinner for Thanksgiving (a little bit early), we also had an evening of carols and presents under a fully-trimmed tree. I wore an obnoxious reindeer headband and the whole family suffered through the requisite holiday movies. Home Alone, Elf, Christmas Vacation, White Christmas ... you name it, we watched it.
It was Christmas, after all, even if it wasn't December.
And while it was absolutely perfect, we also acknowledged the realities of the calendar. December 25th will happen, so we just made plans for very exciting Second Christmasses.
December 25th in Afghanistan will sparkle with 25 days of Advent presents, some handmade holiday decorations, and a DVD viewing of White Christmas.
December 25th here at home will involve snuggly pjs and the same movie, helping serve the holiday meal at our local soup kitchen, and a very special trip to see the Nutcracker.
You have to admit, there's nothing so jolly as having Christmas come twice a year.
Just because my husband isn't home doesn't mean there's any reason to miss Christmas. We're just changing the way we celebrate it.
In fact, we're still going to celebrate every holiday he's missing. (This year, that's everything from the winter holidays, Easter and his birthday to our wedding anniversary and, potentially, the birth of our first child. That last one I can't exactly recreate for him, so let's all hope he makes it.) We have Valentine's day scheduled for August and our anniversary for September. Even missed birthdays will be celebrated en masse with the entire family in our favorite missed-birthday tradition: the Birthday Ball.
This is a holiday I'm stealing from my old camp because it's completely brilliant. When Bill gets home and things calm down a bit, we'll have everyone over for a big family dinner. We'll hang streamers everywhere, make everyone (even the big, bad Marine) put on a party hat, and we'll all enjoy a special birthday dinner. Everyone who had a birthday will have a silly cup celebrating their birthday and their place at the table will be set with a small (but fun) present. We'll all sing happy birthday, and everyone will have a piece of cake with a sparkly candle to blow out. Happy Birthday, everyone! Steal this idea, too. It's fun, everyone gets excited about it, and really: every day is better with birthday cake. This way no one's ever missing your birthday, you just get to celebrate how special you are twice.
And that's how we feel about Christmas, too. We have friends who let the holidays roll by, sad to be without their other half, sad (and maybe even feeling a little guilty) to celebrate without him, and we totally understand that. But we're the stiff-upper-lip sort, the sort to bullheadedly steam forward no matter what, and the type who, at the holidays, are basically real-life Griswolds, tramping out into the wild to cut down the perfect tree, spending every last dime on lights, and celebrating the holidays until we're blue in the face.
There's no missing Christmas here. If anything, we're just getting to celebrate it twice.
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