Highlighting the Holidays: Home for the Holidays

(The following is a guest post by Monica Mohindra of the Veterans History Project.)

“Home for the holidays”- it’s a sentiment that can cut across lines we might otherwise let divide us. For my dad, it means a longing to be with his family in India for Diwali, a multi-day festival of light that falls each year on dates determined by the Hindu calendar. For a neighbor this year, it meant having her children and grandchildren at home with her for at least one night of Hanukkah.

Home can also be less of a location and more of an idea. For a dear friend, it doesn’t matter where in the world he is for New Year’s, as long as he’s with his loved ones. For me, raised on a holiday culture diet replete with Irving Berlin and Bing Crosby, the idea of home evokes a nostalgic gathering of friends and family, with images of winsome young men in uniform and quaint “make-do” decorations and treats flitting across the projector screen in the back of my mind.

For Alexander Standish, a 45-year-old intelligence officer stationed in Luxemburg near the end of World War II, the significance of Christmas at home was shared with a local family separated by war.

Edith and Yvonne de Muyser, Luxembourg. Alexander Standish Collection, Veterans History Project.

Edith and Yvonne de Muyser, Luxembourg. Alexander Standish Collection, Veterans History Project.

A veteran of World War I, Standish found himself yet again away from his own loved ones during the holiday and sought solace in sharing Christmas festivities with his landlady and her children:

“For weeks the excitement built up in the household — the children became more and more excited, “Mutter” was busy working on dolls’ clothes, dresses, etc. and hiding them in my room where the children would not find them. I decided that Christmas was the same the world over in a family of children.”

While we love the romantic notion of a Christmas-time truce, for Alexander Standish, the war continued unabated through Christmas 1944. Within the Veterans History Project’s “Making it Home” blog series, Standish’s collection has become emblematic for me, illustrating how VHP collections illuminate the commonality of our hopes and dreams for even small moments of peace. I echo his declaration “I decided that Christmas was the same the world over in a family of children.” Despite decades, despite conflict, despite geography, I have decided that the holidays are the same for much of the world: we yearn to be with our loved ones, sharing in a moment of joy and hoping for peace.

 Nicholas W. Phillips in front of Christmas tree decorated with beer cans. "Korea Xmas '52" on reverse. Nicholas W. Phillips Collection, Veterans History Project.

Nicholas W. Phillips in front of Christmas tree decorated with beer cans. “Korea Xmas ’52” on reverse. Nicholas W. Phillips Collection, Veterans History Project.

Join us over on Folklife Today to see other ways veterans have made manifest their desires to be home for the holidays and share your own thoughts and memories in the comments. Help us spread these collections that so eloquently voice these universal themes. Please post the images and links wherever you share compelling information-Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram or Pinterest-using the hashtag #VHPatHome. If you’re home with loved ones please consider recording the memories of the veteran in your life.

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