Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas - Military Style

As an Air Force brat, most of my childhood was spent overseas. Holidays were grand, especially Christmas. Families in the States went over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house; we created our own home-away-from-home festivities.

 The base was decked out with lights and a huge tree stood on the lawn by headquarters. The decorations around base reflected the country we were in. In Germany, big nutcracker soldier figures surrounded the tree. Their mean-looking faces scared me to death.

Spain was a wonderland. The lights that made Madrid’s buildings come alive flowed over onto the buildings on base.
Nativity scenes were the heart of Spanish celebrations, so a living nativity scene was near the tree.
In Spanish traditions, the 3 Wise Men bring the gifts so wisemen ornaments hung on the tree and large figures scattered around the base.
To a junior-high kid, everything was magical.
Mom worked hard to make Christmas special. The strict weight limit for household goods when moving overseas didn’t allow for Christmas trees or rooftop Santa sleighs. Every year, we went to the Base Exchange to buy a 4-5 foot tree. We made decorations for the tree and for our windows. And, my favorite: Christmas cookies! Santas, reindeer, snowmen, painted with every color of powdered-sugar icing imaginable. Homemade fruitcakes, candies…that’s the smell of Christmas to me.
Gifts were a challenge. Our wishes were defined by the pages of the Sears Catalog. If things weren’t ordered in October, the boat didn’t get them there in time.

The best part was Armed Forces Radio. On Christmas Eve they played carols and The Night Before Christmas. One year, I remember panicking when the announcer said jets were sent to investigate a strange object seen on radar. Were they going to shoot down Santa’s sleigh? Didn’t they remember it was Christmas Eve?! I slumped in relief when the pilots radioed back that Santa wasn’t a threat.
We quickly learned that Christmas isn’t made up of decorations, it’s a matter of the heart. Neighbors filled each other’s houses for a potluck dinner of pot roast or ham, with all the trimmings. One of the dads read the Christmas story about the Baby in a manger, the shepherds, and the angels. Of course, the kids showed off all their gifts.

It doesn’t matter where you live, that’s the true joy of Christmas.

Sherry Carter is a retired engineer, slowly being reformed into a Bible-study author. She draws on over 30 years experience as a Bible teacher to give depth to her writing.

She's the grandmother of two perfect children and a sports fanatic (especially the Oklahoma Sooners). She and her husband of 42 years live in west Texas and are servants to their retired-racing greyhound.

Above all, she wants to grow closer to God and to learn from other believers as they travel down this path of faith. Journey along with her by following her blog, Sherry's Light Blog, her Facebook page, and her quarterly newsletter. Her first Bible study, Storms of Life, won the 2007 Award of Excellence at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer's Conference. It's available at amazon. com,, or at local bookstores.


Caroline said...

As usual your post is a lovely reminder of Christmas celebration and how much it means, especially to children, but to us all. Thanks for sharing a touch of how it's celebrated in other countries!

Donna B said...

What a wonderful post about a view many of us never get to see. Military kids often see life through a different lens with a much broader view because of their experiences. That's a blessing in itself. Thanks for sharing a glimpse.

Claude Nougat said...

How wonderful! Christmas is always Christmas no matter where you are, thanks for reminding us in this joyful way!

Annette Bergman said...

Your post reminded me of my first Christmas away from home. We were stationed on Okinawa in 1955 and had just arrived a few days before Christmas. The best part of a military life is the friends you make and especially the ones you spend the holidays with. We had a very small live tree with very few decoration. I think the Military teaches us to make the best of any situation. Thanks for brings back the memories. Happy New Year.

Sherry Carter said...

Thank you all for your comments. It was a fun trip into the past - I hadn't thought about the jets going after Santa in a long time. There were some great things about growing up in a military family!

Patti Shene said...

A great post, Sherry. How fun to learn about the ways others celebrate Christmas. Sounds like you have some very precious memories!

Sherry Carter said...

Yes, I do have many precious memories, Patti. When I first wrote this it was 800+ words :(
Reminds me of a teacher I once had, "Boil it down and, when you're done, boil it down some more." It was hard to choose what to share and what to leave out.

Linda Lange said...

Great post, Sherry. I shared it on Facebook, and several of my friends went on to share it as well. Obviously it touched something within us. One person who shared it is classmate of mine, a retired Air Force surgeon.

Travel queen at 67 said...

Yes christmas in turkey was different. But what fun we had creating memories with rose hype jam and trips to gnome for adventure. Thanks for the memory prod. They are always a good push and bring a bright smile.