My first camp staff Christmas party would have been in December of 1985. I was 17 and the summer of 1985 was the first I spent in my dream job as a summer camp counselor. Back in those days the event was held in the original dining hall. This building was sturdy and filled with history but lacked heat and furniture, sans the camp picnic dining tables. I remember a stinky gas-powered floor heater, where if you stood really close you would experience some warmth but only in the in the smallest of ways. I remember an upside-down pine tree hanging from the rafters that was decorated with a homemade paper chain. I remember a tie-dye t-shirt exchange and huddling together under blankets while trying to play board games. I can’t say for certain which years these things happened only that they were among my first Christmas parties at camp and they often come to my mind when I look back at this incredible time. It is so obvious to me now that these celebrations were so basic, and that I didn’t care. I didn’t care about being cold or any of the other inconveniences. I didn’t care because I was young and in love; I was in love with camp. I had such great friends and a strong sense of belonging that I would have attended the event under any conditions. What they lacked was clearly made up by the shared joy in being together.
I still experience that strong sense of belonging during Christmas time at camp but not only then. The magic of camp happens year-round, we just get to be together in a unique way at Christmas time. It is of course a celebration of the birth of Jesus and his love for us. It is a celebration of the love we have for each other and the love we have for our community. “Camp people” don’t always get to see each other so events like the Christmas party are important to check in on one another and to connect.
By today’s standards the summer camp staff Christmas party is still a basic event. It's not a fancy party. We do have heat and now it is not just for summer staff; all of our staff are invited. The gathering is held in our “new” dining hall (the OPC) and there is a pre-lit fake Christmas tree, a nativity scene and a fire in the fireplace. We make personal pizzas, eat junk food, and play board games. Cell phones are plentiful but mostly for taking pictures and interacting with the staff who couldn’t be there in person. We make ornaments and exchange them with each other. People slumber party in the OPC and polar bear plunge in the freezing pond the next day.
Most importantly we connect just like in 1985, face to face, and we keep the camp love train moving in the right direction.
The true gift for me all these years later is seeing others experience the being “in love with camp…being in love with Jesus… being in love with life.” What a celebration!
It’s my absolute favorite time of year: Advent! I love the feeling of anticipation, joy, and even chaos! There are so many things to accomplish, but we also get the chance to take time for family, tradition, and holiday festivities. I am so appreciative that there is a specific time in our church year where we are asked to reflect and prepare because there are so many other times in our yearly, or even daily, routine where we aren’t given that chance.
Camp is given the gift of preparation because what we do changes through the seasons. The question I get asked all the time is “what does camp do during the winter?” While it’s true that our programming tends to slow down, we are certainly no less busy. We get the chance to reflect on what went well for the previous year, what we can improve, and how we can live out our core values of Camper-Centered, Catholic, Humility, Inclusive, Staff Development, and Stewards of the Earth even more. Because camp operates on a cycle, much like the liturgical year, we get the chance to reflect, reset, and improve on everything from new summer camp programs to new name games.
With both camp winter and Advent, there’s such a gift of opportunity: the opportunity to try something new, the opportunity to reach out to the people around us and hear what they have to say, the opportunity to be better people. I’m personally looking forward to taking full advantage of that gift of opportunity in many facets of my life, and am excited to see what goodness comes of it.
Assistant Camp Director
Camp is such an unique experience! Our staff take turns sharing their perspectives of the experience that is CYO Camp Rancho Framasa!
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