4 Festive Holiday Military Care Packages
It’s always difficult to be away from home during the holidays, but for thousands of deployed servicemen and women, it’s the reality they face during the month of December. The good news is that with a little creativity, you can send them a box full of holiday cheer with a festive Christmas care package, making their time away a bit easier to bear.
Military care packages don’t need to be filled with expensive or complicated items. Often small remembrances from home, or simple personal care items that make life more comfortable, can make a big impact on your loved one’s spirits. Setting a theme for your care package adds an element of fun and is sure to put a smile on your loved one’s face.
Here are four festive Christmas care packages your deployed servicemember will love to receive this holiday season.
Christmas Movie Set
Include your loved one’s favorite Christmas movies, from recent or distant history. Ideas include films like Die Hard, It’s a Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, Elf, Scrooged, A Christmas Story, and Gremlins. If you’ve got the funds to spend, consider a small, portable DVD player (if it takes batteries, be sure to include them separately in the care package). Add some small packs of microwave popcorn or hot cocoa packs (save space by packing them without the large box), or your loved one’s favorite movie theater-style candies. If your servicemember has an all-time favorite Christmas movie, you can include just that movie and build the entire package around the theme of that one movie, with items referencing favorite scenes and quotes.
The Countdown Care Package
A great idea to countdown to Christmas, or perhaps New Years, is to send one small wrapped item for each day, numbered and with a personal note. Taking the time to wrap each item adds to the fun and shows extra effort for your loved one. Ideas include a small, individual pack of their favorite candy, a helpful personal care item to make life more comfortable (eye drops, lip balm, unscented baby wipes), or family items (children’s drawings, post cards from home, favorite photos). Be sure to label each small gift with a number and include a short note of love or encouragement for that day.
Christmas Eve in a Box
Send your loved one the experience of Christmas Eve by packing everything they’d get at home. Include a small stocking with his or her name on it, filled with their favorite (non-perishable) treats and goodies, as well as a few small gifts (even if they are normal, everyday items, wrapping them still adds to the fun). You can include a small artificial tree with a package of min ornaments that they can decorate themselves. Consider sending a selection of holiday music, or, if your servicemember would normally have been attending a church service, a copy of a Christmas Eve sermon (you can typically find archived versions online). Be sure to add a few treats like their favorite holiday candy, store-bought cookies (they tend to last longer than homemade), a few mini candy canes, and hot cocoa packs.
This idea, of course, works great for important religious celebrations like Advent and Hanukkah. If you are celebrating Hanukka, consider decorating the inside of your package in blues and whites, and, with a little creativity – like this mini Menorah made out of an Altoids tin – you can really help your servicemember celebrate even while deployed. Include a collection of candy gelt and maybe a small dreidel, as well as special Hanukkah songs or printed out blessings that your family typically recites. Of course, you’ll want to include the eight individually wrapped smaller gifts or items, one to be opened each night, to really share the experience of home across the ocean.
For Advent, consider including a mini wreath with the traditional four candles (you can use birthday candles), or a small collection of Bible verses to read each night leading up to Christmas Eve. You can also send a small, one-piece nativity scene (you may be able to find a sturdy ornament that depicts the nativity) or a collection of reflections and readings to set the proper mindset for the season.
Holiday Snack Packs
One thing most people look forward to during the holidays is special treats and goodies, and it’s no different for your deployed loved one. The most practical way to send treats is to buy store-bought cookie that will last longer (since some packages can take weeks to arrive); you’ll save space in your package by buying the multi-packs that include smaller, individually wrapped packages (these are also easier for your servicemember to store and pack around). Pre-made Little Debbie snack cakes are also a favorite, and can be purchased in holiday themes and colors, just be sure to package them in sturdier containers or tins within the box to prevent crushing. An empty Pringles can also makes a great cookie storage unit.
If you’d really like to send homemade items, you can wrap each cookie in cling wrap, then store in a larger tin or sealed container. Some people believe that including a slice of bread helps remove moisture and keep baked goods fresher longer. One additional note, if you are sending to a desert location, you’ll want to take special care in ingredient selection. Nestle Toll House created a list of “desert safe” recipes that have been tested in its kitchen and do meet Middle East guidelines, as well as U.S. Postal Service mailing regulations.
Smaller, individually packed items are the easiest to pack in your shipping box and for your soldier to later carry or store. If it’s a crushable item, consider cushioning it with packing material; you can use things that they will love to have like new socks (white or black), local newspaper editions, or small packs of Kleenex. The U.S. Post Office offers many tools for sending international care packages as easy as possible, including offering domestic shipping prices for overseas shipping and a helpful shipping date guide to help ensure your package arrives as close to the holidays as possible (hint, you need to get your package into priority shipping ASAP to get it to your loved one near Christmas).
You’ll want to make sure that all items in your care package meet not only U.S. post restrictions but the local restrictions of the destination country. You can order free APO/FPO boxes to be delivered to your home, print out labels at home, and even schedule a pickup. You’ll need to pay special care to addressing the shipping label correctly; to prevent mail from entering foreign mail networks, do not include city or country names in APO/FPO/DPO shipping addresses.
You can add more personal flare and festivity to your care package by decorating the inside of your shipping container to match your package’s theme. You can use construction paper, wrapping paper, or scrapbooking paper to add color and cheer, and this extra effort will really mean so much to your loved one as they open the box. You can use stencils or vinyl sticker letters to add a message to the flaps or the inside bottom of the box, along with copies of family photos or holiday images.
Receiving a care package from home can be a ray of light for a deployed servicemember. Taking the time and effort to gather and ship even the simplest items and gifts can make your loved one feel your support from thousands of miles away.
Written by Megan Hammons