Holidays in the military often meant no variation from our regular duties. Christmas, Easter and New Year’s Day would come and go without a thought. As I began assimilating back into civilian society, I found it difficult to deal with holidays.
At first I found myself just going through the motions; just physically going wherever I was told to be. In my case, this was a side effect of depression and my inability to properly transition. This does not have to be the case. We can now decide how we spend our holidays, and even though that can seem scary, on one extreme, or pointless on the other, we have the opportunity to do what WE want to do.
Students and most employees in the civilian world receive some type of break from school or work for the holidays (with obvious exceptions for firefighters, nurses, etc.). No matter what it is that you do, it is important to take a break once in a while. The looming question remains, however: with whom should I spend my holidays?
I have always spent the holidays with my family: my parents, my brother, my cousins, aunts and uncles. This works out really well for me because I grew up in such a large family that is very close. Spending time away from them in the military was difficult. I was 19 years old when I joined and I had never really been away from home. After my first holiday away, I knew I would spend any future holidays with my family. If you felt that way, too, you may want to consider being with your family.
Several men and women I served with didn’t really have families anymore. If that is the case with you, obviously it would be beneficial to spend your holidays with friends.
These are two extreme situations, but what the rest of us who are somewhere in the middle? You can always split up your holidays. Many people will do a “Friends-giving” for Thanksgiving, but visit family for Christmas. New Year’s Eve is always a good one to spend with friends. The situation can get even muddier when you add significant others to the mix. The most important thing to do is to go somewhere you will feel comfortable. You have earned the right to take care of yourself and enjoy some down time. Consider a phone call, or maybe a short visit, to whomever you decide not to spend the holidays with. We are including a table below to highlight some of the benefits and pitfalls of each situation.
Pros and Cons for Planning Your Holidays
With Family PROS
Good food you grew up with
Spending time with those who raised you
With Family CONS
Possibly being treated like a child
Awkward dinner conversation
No New Year’s Kiss
With Friends PROS
No need to travel
Being able to make your own meal
Create your own tradition
Can be more relaxing / partying
With Friends CONS
Possibly upsetting your family
Putting in the work to host or help host
Missing out on old traditions
Spending vacation time with co-workers