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Camping Christmas

Ah, the holidays. The wonderful time of year where everything smells like fresh, mountain pine, snow falls, children become especially well-behaved waiting for santa to arrive, and family gatherings are a must. I always loved Christmas as a kid and even well into my 20s. I loved the excitement of waking up as a child and unwrapping the gifts, playing with my new toys, walking the cat walk in my new clothes, and the extra lavished attention from our parents. As I got older I continued to love that Christmas morning excitement but for new reasons – I couldn’t wait to see the faces of the people receiving gifts from me. I loved choosing that perfect item that I knew they’d love. Wrapping it perfectly and making all of the gifts match as any young lady would who looked up to Martha Stewart.

Then something happened in my 30s. I no longer wanted things, I longed for experiences. I’d rather have a day of fun with the family than worry about the expense of gifts or for them to have to worry on their side either. It all began to feel more trivial. Here I was, 30-something, no kids, and Christmas lost its excitement. I still went through the rituals. Purchased gifts that would make me overextended financially, watched all of my family do the same, passed them around on the morning of Christmas, and we would eat and play board games. The more years we went through the routine, the more I realized that it was the socializing and getting together with family that I loved the most – far more than any gift I received or gave.

Fast forward to the end of my 30s, all the while wracking my brain for a solution that might make everyone happy – or at least the majority of the family happy. It came to me! I was on Pinterest, scrolling through the photos and because summer had ended, there were a plethora of holiday ideas streaming through my feed. I noticed the cutest photo of a little retro trailer in the snow, all set up for Christmas, complete with pink 1960s tinsel tree, little white twinkle lights drawn up and around the trailer, and a pretty winter welcome mat at the door. The photo was attached to an article about a couple that travels around in their trailer year-round and how much they loved to celebrate the holidays in campgrounds.

Ah-ha! I had it. We would go camping for Christmas. Both sides of our family had RVs and loved to travel. We lived in Southern California at the time with very moderate weather year-round especially if we traveled closer to the coast. I planned it all out and invited the family. Some planned to come and some skipped it but that was okay as it made for a trip where everyone wanted to be there vs. the mandatory family gathering for the holidays. It felt more like an occasion than ever before and at the same time it was all so much simpler and laid back. No one had to host Christmas at their house, spending days cleaning and preparing foods and treats and then spending days cleaning it all up after a few hours of family time. No one was burdened with worrying about gifts as there was a no gifts necessary policy. Admittedly, gifts did get handed out on Christmas day but I still stand by the idea that the trip would be so much better without them. It just adds a layer of pressure that’s not needed.

I chose Lake Casitas in Ventura as our location.The first year was a blast. We had so much fun. We planned out dinners so that each person took a turn cooking for one night so that no one cooked the whole time. We were there seven nights, so it was great to cook one evening and then to have the other six off. Everyone helped with clean up and any prep the cook needed for that night. We played outdoor games, went for walks, and played cards. We enjoyed time with each other. The days were sunny and warm with one really windy night thrown in for good measure – just to be sure the weather wasn’t absolutely perfect, it was December after all. Dennis’ cousins even joined us for a couple days but stayed in a hotel off-site since they are not really up for camping. It was amazing!

It was so great, we planned to do it again the following year. We chose the same campground but different camp spots – the inlaws wanted sewer hook ups for their motorhome. The second year was really great too although we didn’t get that same lovely weather so we did spend a little more time cooped up in the motorhomes unfortunately. I was excited to make it an annual tradition but life stepped in and made some changes – at first to our work lives and then when we moved out of state. As I write this for you to read though, I am fondly thinking of ways that we might return to an annual tradition of having a Camping Christmas again some day! It really was a couple of the best Christmases I’ve experienced as an adult.

Have you ever camped out for Christmas? Or any other holidays? Let me know in the comments!

2015 Camping Christmas (click on photo to enlarge)

2016 Camping Christmas (click on photo to enlarge)

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Illustration by Blume Bauer ©

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