America’s holiday season starts on Thanksgiving, and continues through Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the New Year.
This year, Thanksgiving took place on Thursday, November 26th. Military chefs, who started planning for the holiday months in advance, were determined to provide traditional Thanksgiving meals to service members worldwide, despite COVID lockdowns and restrictions. Over 200,000 lbs. of turkey, beef, ham, shrimp, sweet potatoes, pies, cakes, and eggnog were delivered to ship gallies and bases.
The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah began on December 11th and lasted 8 days until December 18th. Hanukkah commemorates the Jewish military victory over the Greeks. Jewish U.S. military personnel were invited to a special ZOOM Hannukah party hosted by the Aleph Institute.
Christmas Eve is coming up on December 24th. Kwanzaa, a celebration of African-American culture, will be celebrated on December 26th, and New Year’s Eve will take place on Thursday, December 31st.
Here are some special holiday projects and programs that are keeping the spirit of the season alive.
Pacific Air Forces | Operation Christmas Drop – Operation Christmas Drop is the Department of Defense’s longest running humanitarian airlift event. The tradition began in 1952 after a B-29 Superfortress aircrew saw Kapingamarangi islanders waving at them. The aircrew responded by attaching supplies to a parachute and dropping it to the islanders below. Today, there are air drops at more than 50 islands throughout the Pacific. Last month Netflix released an Operation Christmas Drop movie based on these real-life missions.
All American Presents from Paratroopers – Presents are donated by 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Each paratrooper donating a present receives receive a raffle ticket for giving them a chance to earn coveted foreign jump wings – badges awarded to parachutists jumping from an aircraft under a foreign commanding officer. This year more than 1,000 paratroopers jumped from C-130 aircraft and helicopters to help donate toys to needy children.
Armed Services YMCA | Operation Holiday Joy – Established in 2004 in collaboration with Woman’s Day magazine to provide food and gifts to junior U.S. service members and their families throughout the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season. Operation Holiday Joy has distributed over 25,000 food baskets and 320,000 toys to military families.
Based in San Juan Capistrano, Homefront America organizes an annual community Christmas toy store for parents of military children who can shop at no cost, and provides holiday food boxes. The organization supports the 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment
Full Circle Home – A non-profit that connects deployed service members with loved ones around the country and on bases worldwide. Helps troops sent holiday gifts and notes to loved ones at home.
Operation Homefront – Programs for military families all year long. Gifts are distributed during the holidays, and military families can participate in meal events and receive Christmas dinner food items.
Created in 2001, eMail our Military supports U.S. military personnel with emails, cards, letters, care packages and many other projects.
Christmas Spirit Foundation | Trees for Troops – A non-profit proving provides free, farm-grown Christmas trees to members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. In 2020, 16,073 were distributed to 79 military bases. Over 16 years the organization has delivered over 260,000 trees.
Marine Corp Toys for Tots – A non-profit started to help less fortunate children throughout the USA experience the joy of Christmas. New unwrapped toys are collected in the fall of every year to be distributed to children in need at Christmas.
Holiday Cards for Our Military Challenge – A non-profit started by Dr. Laura Landerman-Garber to collect and distribute personalized holiday cards to deployed U.S. troops from all 5 military branches. Over 100,000 cards have been sent in 2020.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to our troops and veterans!