It’s was 6 weeks before my deployment, and I had the urge to decorate for Christmas. The day was November 1st. In just 6 weeks, I’d have to say goodbye to my husband, 6 year old son and 18 month old daughter. The depression was threatening to creep in, and I needed to find a way to combat it. Christmas was the remedy.
I vividly remember those 6 weeks. I went on a rampage of gift-purchasing, looking for the best gift ideas I could get my hands on, or make myself. For each kid, I created a personalized storybook, highlighting how much I loved them and the fun we’d had together over the past year. For my husband, a encouraging nudge to purchase whatever he needed, or wanted, while I was gone. The biggest thing I remember are the Christmas decorations, and how placing each piece around our home re-filled my soul.
That year, we did a cute photo shoot with the kids in front of the tree on November 1st. Jammies on, Christmas hats placed just so, and a mom who was determined to make memories in a matter of moments. 6 weeks. That’s all I had. That’s all we had. Christmas is what kept my family together.
My husband kept the Christmas decorations up until I came home. From December to March, our little 2 bedroom apartment maintained the spirit of Christmas. Was it weird? Sure. What is important? Absolutely. When I finally came home, it was like time stood still. I could bring myself back to the moments I had with my family, before I went to war. I could pretend like I never left.
I’ll admit, we didn’t always keep this tradition of deciding to decorate for Christmas on November 1st. Once we got back into the groove of living a “normal” life again, we went back to decorating after Thanksgiving. I’d sneak a few red and gold Christmas pieces into the Thanksgiving decor, just to salvage my urge to go full Santa.
That all changed when my husband’s grandmother passed away. Christmas was her favorite time of year, and the first Christmas without her was the hardest one we’ve ever experienced, even more difficult than the aforementioned “deployment Christmas.” We missed her desperately, and still do today. That next year, my husband and I agreed to decorate as early as we could. November 1st was the perfect date. While decorating early didn’t fill the hole in our hearts, we felt it brought us closer to her spirit. We continued it the next year. We’ll continue it until we decide not to, which may never happen.
Here’s what really matters: we don’t care if you don’t understand why we decorate for Christmas on November 1st. You may love it, you may do it yourself, or you may mutter under your breath “what about Thanksgiving?”
What you’ll never hear from our family is a negating comment about the holiday that means so much to you. We get why you may go all out for Halloween, or why Independence Day is a holiday cherished by every generation — past and present — in your family. We celebrate the traditions that are important to your family. We hope you’ll learn to celebrate ours, too.