From the Homefront: Coast Guard holiday traditions

Twice a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “From the Homefront,” a column for Coast Guard spouses by Coast Guard spouse Shelley Kimball. Shelley has been married to Capt. Joe Kimball, commanding officer of Air Station Miami, for nearly 13 years and currently serves as chapter director for Blue Star Families in Miami, Fla.

A favorite tradition at Air Station Borinquen is the Christmas parranda, a Christmas caroling parade in which the wise men sing traditional songs and throw candy to children. Photo courtesy of Krista Glover.

A favorite tradition at Air Station Borinquen is the Christmas parranda, a Christmas caroling parade in which the wise men sing traditional songs and throw candy to children. Photo courtesy of Krista Glover.

Written by Shelley Kimball.

Photo by Bill Keefrey.

Photo by Bill Keefrey.

A few weeks ago, I had my annual cookie exchange for Coast Guard spouses in our area. Shutting the door after the last guest left felt bittersweet – this will be the last time I’ll host this event at this duty station.

I turned to my husband to tell him how awful it felt to know it was the last one, and he reminded me to look toward the next duty station and starting again with new friends.

I think that’s something true to all of our holiday traditions. Each move brings the possibility for new ways to celebrate together. This week at From the Homefront, we are sharing some of our favorite Coast Guard holiday traditions.

Let me tell you a little about my cookie exchange. I used to attend one at a previous duty station, and I loved the camaraderie among spouses it brought about. It was a calm in the storm of the busy holiday season. We started having one here, at Air Station Miami, three years ago. I invite any spouse who wants to come, with a request for three dozen cookies to share. We spend most of the evening talking and laughing, and then just as we wind down, everyone goes around my table taking cookies. The table is nearly groaning with the weight of the cookies, and my one and only rule is that they must all be gone before everyone leaves. I’m looking forward to rebuilding the tradition next year.

Halle, Kelly, Kathryn, Jill, and Macy Fouch. Photo courtesy of Jill Fouch.

Halle, Kelly, Kathryn, Jill, and Macy Fouch. Photo courtesy of Jill Fouch.

Jill Fouch and her family bring a tradition with them to every duty station – they adopt a family in need at the holidays. They usually find a family through a local food bank, and then they buy gifts for the family.

“My girls do all the shopping and wrapping. My middle daughter told me yesterday, ‘This makes me feel so good,’” Fouch said. “I love that my girls are learning the power of giving to others at such a young age, especially during the holidays.”

Some of Krista Glover’s favorite holiday memories are from her family’s time in Puerto Rico, where families lined their sidewalks with luminaries made from empty milk jugs and candles. Glover’s favorite part of the holiday celebrations at Air Station Borinquen was the Christmas parranda, which is a Christmas caroling parade. The Three Kings would ride in the back of a truck singing and playing traditional holiday carols while throwing candy to the kids.

Grady, Jerod, Emily, Krista, Sarah and Laura. Photo courtesy of Krista Glover.

Grady, Jerod, Emily, Krista, Sarah and Laura. Photo courtesy of Krista Glover.

“People would join in the parade as you passed by their house, and many families would have refreshments set up in their yards for all to enjoy,” Glover said. “It was always a fun-filled, wonderful community-strengthening event.“

Lisa Tickell said one of her favorite traditions is the Santa fly-in at Air Station Miami. Each year, Santa comes in on an MH-65 Dauphin helicopter, and he visits with all of the Coastie kids in attendance. He takes note of their Christmas wishes, and he gives them gifts. Tickell and her family love that it is an unusual holiday tradition that they will always remember.

“We attend the fly-in to create those unique memories for our kids,” Tickell said. “There are few people who can say that they witnessed Santa flying into town on a Coast Guard aircraft.”

Lindsey Zackman collects ornaments from every duty station. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Zackman.

Lindsey Zackman collects ornaments from every duty station. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Zackman.

Lindsey Zackman has found a way to mark each PCS at the holidays. Each year, she adds one new Coast Guard ornament to her tree to commemorate their Coastie experiences. For example, their first duty station was in Texas, so she found a simple ornament from a gift shop there. The year her husband went through Officer Candidate School in New London, Conn., she found a replica of the Cosat Guard Cutter Eagle to add to the tree.

“I love to collect ornaments as our years in the Coast Guard grow, looking back at them each year and the memories we’ve made along the way,” Zackman said.

So from all of us to all of you, we hope this holiday season is a memorable one. We wish you everything that brings you joy at the holidays and throughout the coming year.

Share your favorite Coast Guard holiday memories below!

The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U.S. Coast Guard.

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