By Stacey Abler – When your soldier is overseas during Christmas, it can make the holidays difficult. My soldier referred to his Christmas deployment as the absolute worst and it took him quite some time to get into the Christmas spirit again once he returned home. But you can make the holiday a little brighter for him, even if he is overseas.
There’s no reason for him to miss out on all of the Christmas decorations while he is deployed. After all, it’s a major part of the Christmas season and it is what makes our homes feel festive as well. Do the same for him by putting together a Christmas care package full of holiday decorations so he can brighten up his space. Even though they may never admit it, the guys who he shares his space with will be thankful for a little bit of home as well.
- Send a small artificial Christmas tree. If his space is very limited, you can send a tabletop tree along with mini lights that are battery operated as well as small ornaments to decorate the tree. If he has a little more space, consider sending a little larger tree (possibly a three foot) and ornaments to decorate. Be sure when you send things that you don’t put a lot of expense into it as it’s unlikely he’ll have enough room to bring it back home with him when he leaves. Don’t forget the tree skirt and a small topper for the tree. Also, small red bows can be an inexpensive way to easily decorate the tree.
- Send Christmas stockings. Preferably send them full of gifts! If you can’t pack them full, wrap small gifts for the stocking and include them in the box. Be sure to include extra stockings for those who are with him and, if you can, even include a few small gifts for them. There’s no need to be extravagant. Things from a discount or dollar store will be fine. It’s the thought that counts.
- Include the scents of the holiday. Whether you send some fresh cut Christmas tree branches or candles with the scents of Christmas, be sure to send some scents they can use to get the full effect of the holidays. This may include the smell of Christmas trees, cinnamon or homemade cookies.
- Send Christmas movies. Most people love watching Christmas movies and your soldier is no exception. Send his favorite Christmas movie on DVD that he can watch with his buddies. You can even make it into a movie pack with snacks to watch during the movie. If he’s not a traditional guy for Christmas movies, consider sending something such as “Bad Santa.”
- Send wrapped Christmas gifts to him to put under the tree. Again, remember the space he’ll have to bring these gifts back home so keep them small. Having wrapped presents to dive into on Christmas morning can make being overseas for the holiday a little more bearable.
- Send Santa hats over for him and his buddies. It will make cute pictures for them to share with their families on Facebook or when they return home. And speaking of pictures….
- Send a few disposable cameras that he can send back home to have the pictures developed if he doesn’t have another camera accessible to him.
- For others who are with him, you may also consider sending holiday cards separately to them. They all love getting mail and this will be especially nice for those who aren’t generally receiving anything from other family members or friends while they are deployed.
- Don’t forget the snacks! You can send a cake in a jar of his favorite recipe or send cookies that have been sealed tight. This is also the best time of year to send chocolate and have at least a small chance of it arriving in tact. Just make sure it is well packaged in case it does melt.
Be sure you send his Christmas package as soon as possible. Even though packages generally only take seven days to make it overseas, the mailing times can be delayed around the holidays. Generally, the postal service will publish a list of dates by APO zip code in late November. Abide by these dates if possible but know that you still have some wiggle room included with them too. Try to send early if you can as you don’t want him to receive his Christmas package after Christmas, especially if you’re including decorations. Be sure to plan ahead!
When you are packing up his Christmas package, it is usually wise to take advantage of the Priority mail boxes from the United States Postal Service. They have flat rate boxes available in various sizes that can ship overseas for one flat rate. It makes it much easier on the pocketbook to know what to expect when you arrive at the post office rather than being hit with a big bill just to ship his goods to him. With the largest flat rate box, there is even a discount when you ship it to an APO address.
Some units may even have a plane that is headed overseas during the month of December. In this case, they may have enough room to take packages with them and help you avoid the shipping costs. Check with the family readiness group or rear detachment for his unit to see if this may be an option. While there may be a limit on the size or weight of the package, it can be a money saving option if this is the case.
Finally, if your soldier is returning home just after Christmas, consider postponing your own celebration or plan a second celebration when he returns home. Many military families keep their Christmas trees up for months in order to accommodate this and it can be well worth it to do so. This can be a way to still celebrate the holiday as a family regardless of the actual date on the calendar.