Here's the thing about military bases -- in case this wasn't painfully obvious -- they're full of lonely young service members during the holidays.
For some, travelling home is a $1,000-plus commitment for only a couple of days or even hours. That means that unless your friends have significant others or family nearby, or are feeling particularly rich in time and money, they will be around and looking for family and love during the holidays.
Some guys and girls use it as an excuse to go on benders with friends, but we decided that we wanted to recreate the feeling of being home for the holidays, for ourselves and our friends. What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving or Easter, or the Christmas holiday season, than hosting a party with all the fixings of home?!
You also probably know how much it costs to a) put on a traditional holiday spread and b) how much these folks can eat in a sitting. The second you add some scotch, a good board game, and have an open bed or couches, it becomes a dangerous game of one-upmanship between guests and their stomach or plate. I've seen that one end several ways.
I've got a couple of tips for those of you hosting a military family thanksgiving, or "adopting a shack rat" as I like to say.
1. Make a budget, stick to it, and don't be afraid to ask your guests to pitch-in. They have a vested interest in dinner's success too!
2. Buy your turkeys two weeks beforehand. This won't help now, but log it for next time. I've been caught off-hand by this twice!
3. Make a Facebook event, have your significant-others make it known to their friends and let your friends know. The sooner you get the word out, the sooner people can plan around it themselves and start making the necessary arrangements.
4. Set the menu early. Potluck is almost the only way to do this cost/time-effectively. If you provide the turkey, ham or meat substitute, it allows others who might not have a kitchen or the time to prepare to purchase a side or make arrangements to make one.
5. Make your event BYOB. Just like with the food, it can be outrageously expensive to serve a full meal and a full bar -- at least this close to Christmas.
6. Offer a bed/floor/couch or set-up a ride-share program. There's nothing worse than having to deal with someone who drank too much and can't get home/doesn't have a place to stay. You'll usually get one brave soul willing to go without a drink or two. Because this isn't Thanksgiving with the in-laws, you don't need quite as much alcohol to survive.
7. Use paper plates for an easy clean up. Even if you have a dishwasher clean-up can be overwhelming. You will thank me for this one!
8. Offer someone the chance to clean-up instead of bringing/making anything. This option works out really well if you have guests from out of town.
9. Have an after dinner option. A board or card game, some good music in the background to sustain conversation and you're set! If you give your guests options, it allows the night to wind down at your own pace instead of kicking them out. It also allows some people to sober up, some to flirt and others to get the family feel they came over to get.
10. If you're having guests stay over, plan breakfast -- and make it easy. Last year I pre-made cinnamon rolls and had them in the fridge until the next day. The smell of them woke all our house guests.
11. Remember that everything you do this year will serve as a lesson for next year. Enjoy yourself! After all, if the hostess looks like someone peed in her gravy, it will put everyone else ill at ease.
This season means so many things to different people, but I think a little love, compassion and gratitude are always in order. So whether you're hosting a group of friends, going home to see family, or staying in, I hope you have a great weekend.
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