Christmas celebrations are way too much fun to limit them just to December—so at The Heart, we have Christmas on June 25 and July 25, too.
The observations vary some from year to year, but we always have a lunch of turkey and dressing, gravy and rolls, sweet potatoes and English peas.
We do our best to belt out a number of Christmas songs in the Dining Hall, (mumbling through the parts where nobody can remember the words). The Dining Hall is strewn with green and red crepe paper and cut-outs of snow flakes, candies, lights, and everyone dresses in red and green, some with Santa hats or elf shoes, or even those adorable Christmas sweaters (good thing we have air conditioning)!
Often, on the night before, campers are instructed to set their boots or shoes outside the door, and Kris Kringle and his helpers come around after everyone has fallen asleep to leave little toys and candies in them. This is a European custom that was shared with us many summers ago by a staff member from Germany.
Many families send gifts to their campers, so our mailboxes overflow! The challenge with gifts sent to camp is storing them in the tepee afterward. Another is the additional expense borne by some families.
At the risk of sounding Grinchy, I love small and simple camp gifts: the kind that are handmade and thoughtful, at least among camp friends. A favorite quote written on a bookmark and decorated with a little drawing. A smooth stone with the names of the friends on it. Flowers pressed. A friendship bracelet.
People back home can send books or comic books, stationery, markers, stickers, temporary tattoos or flash tattoos, hair bows, or small stuffed animals (frogs for Shawnees or gators for Pawnees, perhaps).
In the meanwhile, all of us here at “The Heart” send greetings for a wonderful Christmas season to all our friends on the real occasion!