Merry Christmas! It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Most of us are able to gather together with loved ones to celebrate the holiday, but this isn’t possible for those deployed in the military. While we wish everyone in the Lucky Shot community a wonderful holiday season, want to take a closer look at what Christmas is like for those deployed overseas serving our country and their families. We also we want to examine major events tied to the military and patriotism that took place on Christmas, as well as military yuletide traditions. We know that if you’ve been good all year, Santa will find you no matter where you are, and that’s especially true for those brave Americans serving in the armed forces.
Perhaps the most significant Christmas time military action was when General George Washington crossed the Delaware in 1776 to lead a surprise attack against German mercenary forces fighting for the British in New Jersey. Washington and his troops set out Christmas night, hoping to catch the Hessians groggy after a day of celebrating the Christmas holiday, and unprepared as a winter storm was brewing. Continental troops were able to defeat the enemy as surrender occurred within 90 minutes after Washington’s forces launched their attack. The victory at the Battle of Trenton was of great significance as it raised morale within the troops and revived hope about the war for independence within the colonies.
We absolutely love patriotic music and our favorite patriotic song is John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever”, which is America’s national march. Did you know that this Sousa wrote this song on Christmas day in 1896? He had served as the director of the United States Marine Band for a number of years and was known as the “March King”. On a voyage from Europe back to America, Souza stated that, “On board the steamer as I walked miles up and down the deck, back and forth, a mental band was playing ‘Stars and Stripes Forever.’ Day after day as I walked it persisted in crashing into my very soul. I wrote it on Christmas day, 1896.” The composition was inspired by his time as the leader of the Marine Band as well as homesickness for the U.S.A. What a great Christmas gift to the country!
Now that we’ve covered a few key patriotic Christmas happenings, let’s turn our focus to how Christmas is celebrated in the military. Troops deployed or stationed overseas get into the holiday spirit by decorating their duty stations. Makeshift trees are trimmed and wreaths are hung. Care packages are delivered to help boost morale. Holiday concerts are given by the U.S. Army Band and other groups to help spread Christmas cheer. On the day itself, service personnel are often able to relax, play games, and call their families. Base chapels holds Christmas services all day for those who choose to worship. The holiday meal is the highlight of the day, and the troops are served a traditional Christmas dinner with all the fixings. Commanding officers often volunteer to serve their subordinates as a sign of gratitude for their service.
Christmas can be a difficult time of year for military families, but there are plenty of organizations that help brighten holiday spirits. Whether the family of a serviceperson needs a Christmas tree, presents for under the tree, a holiday meal, or financial assistance, there are a number of organizations that offer support. The military also takes care of civilians who are in need of some Christmas cheer; organizations like the Marines Toys for Tots Foundation distributes new toys for needy children.
One of our favorite military Christmas traditions is NORAD tracks Santa. Every Christmas Eve, millions of families track Santa’s flying-reindeer-powered sleigh ride through the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s Santa Tracker. As Santa flies around the world, satellites track his position by detecting Rudolph’s nose, which gives off an infrared signature similar to that of a missile. The tradition started in 1955 at the previously named Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado. During the night shift, Air Force Col. Harry Shoup got a phone call from a boy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, who had followed instructions in a department store’s newspaper advertisement that instructed children how to call Santa – except the number had been printed incorrectly. Col. Shoup entertained the boy’s call, and throughout the night Shoup and his operators answered all the calls they received due to the misprinted number. A Christmas tradition was born, and in 1958 NORAD took over tracking Santa’s sleigh.
We’re glad that Santa made it to where you are, and we’re especially grateful that St. Nick ensures that all our troops and their families have a Merry Christmas. As the big guy in the red suit would say, Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!