Chris Tisdell, a naval engineer based at Portsmouth Naval Base, left his children, Lois, nine and Ewan, eight, stunned when they were visiting Father Christmas in a grotto at Marwell Zoo, in Winchester.
Chris surprised his kids as they were at a Christmas tree making a wish after telling Father Christmas they just wanted their dad home safe.
When the children turned around, Chris was stood there wearing a Santa hat and holding two presents and the trio embraced a special moment.
Mr Tisdell left for the Middle East on HMS Daring in September and wasn’t expected to be home until next May.
He will now spend Christmas with his children and his wife, Helen, at their home in Whiteley.
On the reunion, Helen said: ‘I am so pleased to see him at home for Christmas with the family.’
Lois added: ‘It’s great and amazing. I can’t wait to tell my friends.’