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Don’t Let Tradition Ruin Your Holidays

Military life is filled with tradition. If you’ve ever been to a military ball, a promotion ceremony, change of command, or any other military event, you’ve seen many of those traditions.


Families hold traditions, too.


Sometimes those traditions are passed along, generation to generation, and sometimes new traditions begin organically. I think many of us naturally hold onto traditions because so much of our lives change year to year with PCSes and the constant change military life can bring.

But, traditions can bring stress, too. Have you ever found yourself saying,

“We HAVE to make sugar cookies — it’s tradition,”? Maybe you’ve uttered, “People expect us to be home for Christmas — it’s tradition.” 

I love tradition. Nostalgia and routine make me happy. But, I firmly believe that traditions shouldn’t make us miserable, racked with guilt, or stressed to the max. 

Consider simple traditions


Looking to start a family tradition? Traditions don’t have to be huge productions or gestures to be special. 

Since our first duty station, I have purchased a new nutcracker each year. I write the date on the nutcracker and we display them for the holiday season.

When our daughter was 4 years old, she danced in The Nutcracker for the first time. We got her a special nutcracker with the date, and the tradition expanded. Now 15, she’s continued dancing each year in The Nutcracker.

Someday, she’ll take her own nutcrackers with her when she sets out on her own. It’s not a huge task to find a lovely nutcracker each year, but the anticipation of seeing the selection is fun and a cherished memory.


Traditions can change


Remember when Marie Kondo first hit the scene and there was a huge push to rid ourselves of things that didn’t spark joy?

If a tradition brings you undue stress and doesn’t spark joy, it’s okay to set it aside. Maybe for good, maybe for a little while.

You change and evolve over time, too.

Over the years, we’ve had traditions like ice skating on Christmas Eve, and later, watching The Polar Express after church before leaving out cookies for Santa.

Both of those changed because of the service times, skating rink schedules, and military service. 

Traditions can pause, too. Maybe there’s a deployment and it wouldn’t feel right to do something without your service member.

And sometimes, you just might not feel like it. That’s okay, too.  

Make decisions about traditions as a family


Talk it out — as a family unit! If you want to put your Christmas tree up in July because it makes sense for your family and you want to, then do it! If you want to skip the holidays a la Christmas With the Kranks, go for it!

It used to be important to us to spend Christmas morning (or “our” Christmas morning, whanever that date happened to be) just the three of us.

Now, sometimes that’s the only real down time all three of us have together and it can be a great time to travel elsewhere and enjoy a vacation. Santa still visits the beaches of Mexico for us. 


Don’t let the pressure get to you


We’ve all seen those holiday bingo cards with great holiday activities, right? They’re amazing and have wonderful ideas.

But don’t get burnt out trying to check off everything on the card (or break the bank!). You don’t have to do everything on a Pinterest board of holiday activities. 

Set boundaries on what you, and your family, are comfortable with. If you want to head to your hometown to see friends and family and are able to do so, awesome.

If you and your loved ones would like to hole up and watch Elf on repeat in your jammies this year, rock on.  

traditionHolidays can be a time of delight and happiness, but they can also be a time of stress and pressure. Traditions shouldn’t add to that and bring us down.

Tis the season to be merry, don’t let making and keeping traditions turn you into the Grinch.



*For more posts from Sheila, check out her M:M Author Page.



  • Sheila Rupp

    Sheila Rupp is originally from Michigan and is married to her high school sweetheart. She is a copy editor and writer with almost 20 years of experience. Like many military spouses, Sheila’s career has varied greatly over the years while staying within the communications field. Sheila has a bachelor’s in Journalism and Mass Communications, and a minor in Professional Writing from the University of New Mexico. Sheila is a military spouse of more than 18 years. Having spent the first 17 years as an Air Force spouse, she is now a proud Space Force spouse after her spouse transitioned to the newest branch. She serves as a Key Spouse and enjoys volunteering for a local nonprofit arts organization. In her free time, you’ll find Sheila on hiking trails, curled up with a good book, watching her daughter dance, or traveling the globe. Sheila is currently based in Los Angeles, California, where she lives with her husband, teenage daughter, and dog.


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Supporting Our Military Children

Supporting Our Military Children

One thing that has been most important to me, as a military spouse, is figuring out how to best do this life while supporting our children with the changes and difficulties. When my children were very small, there were many times that my husband was away, and I had to parent my children alone.

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