• Published
  • By Jessica L. Kendziorek
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

As most know, the military is big on traditions. From calling a room to attention when the commander enters to rendering a salute during the national anthem; tradition is regarded as an important piece of the military history.

As I walked around the 403rd Wing and talked to many people about their traditions for the holidays; both for Thanksgiving and Christmas or the holiday they celebrated. The one thing that everyone’s story centered around is family, friends and getting together as the most important factor… and oh yeah, eating a bunch of food.

Food. This is where the traditions began to differ, because while yes the traditional turkey dinner was mentioned, it was the other items that made the meal unique to a family: some eat dressing, while others eat stuffing, and yes there is a difference.

There is the always an important item on the menu that the family just has to have, no matter what is being served: Mom’s French silk chocolate, pecan, or pumpkin pie, Nan’s bread pudding,  the family recipe for rice or banana pudding, Grandma’s kolaches (a Czech pastry), or even Coquito (Puerto Rican eggnog).

Some differences were regional; such as, some southerners would add seafood to the menu while one member from the northeast had pork pies and banana fritters. Other differences were cultural; eating a traditional Cuban dinner, roasting a whole pig in a pit, and making homemade tamales or enchiladas before Christmas.

Then you get down to the fun and games of the holiday’s and that is where I found people didn’t even realize they had a tradition until they started to talk about it and remember.

When asking everyone what their traditions were, most people just answered, “We don’t really have any,” without actually thinking about it. Because at the holidays you don’t stop to think of what you do every year as a tradition, but it actually can be.

From getting up and watching the parade on Thanksgiving to watching the football games with family every year, especially if you normally wouldn’t do that, is a tradition. Putting up your Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving no matter what can be a tradition, or even waiting until the 1st of December. Playing board games with family, dominoes, or outside yard games, such as corn-hole or horse shoes every year can be a tradition and it just may not be something you think about.

As I talked with members I heard everyday ideas, to new and interesting ideas. I learned one member’s family goes camping at Thanksgiving every year; while others go serve at homeless shelters before going home to be with their own families. Some members do the matching pajamas with family, while others open one gift each on Christmas Eve, and others do a scavenger hunt for a Christmas ornament every year.

Our members have traditions that range from creating homemade personalized ornaments, drawing names for gifts, family football games, the saran wrap ball game, wrapping paper-ball fights, to going home and hanging out on the levee for the annual bonfire, to just sitting back and relaxing at home with the family.

I heard so many stories of family get-togethers and traditions that people do over the holidays, and what I realized most as I listened to all of the stories, is that even as diverse as our 403rd Wing family is, in many ways we are also similar because family is important for everyone here.

The sentiment I got from everyone that I talked with was the same.

It doesn’t really matter how or what you celebrate; just be with your family, friends, loved ones, and if someone needs a place to go; take them with you.

Happy Holidays!