Our First Camper Christmas

Christmas 2016 will forever be remembered as our first camper Christmas. Many people have wondered how we celebrated Christmas now that we’re living in a camper, and the short answer is much the same way as we celebrated when we lived in an apartment.

Admittedly, it does take a little bit of extra planning and creativity. At least it did for us. Part of that is because of the limited space and part of that was because we’ve lived in it for such a short time. We are still discovering things that we need that we haven’t thought to get yet. (Or haven’t remembered. How many times will I go to a store without remembering that we don’t have a can opener?!) So our ability to “wing it” last minute is more limited right now but that’s hopefully not a long-term problem.

And while I’m confessing things, I think I tried too hard to make everything perfect. Most of us remember the magic of our own childhood Christmases and want to make sure our children’s Christmases are magical too. I didn’t want our huge transitions to take anything away from that. I also worried about what kind of new traditions or patterns we’d be setting in how we handled this first Christmas. As I’ve experienced before, setting unreasonable standards and putting that kind of pressure on myself rarely makes things any better. In the end, we muddled through the hard parts and managed to get focus back onto what’s truly important just in time. I’m more convinced than ever that this “magic” we remember from childhood Christmases is something that children more often than not will find, perhaps even create, by themselves.

All that being said, we maintained many of our holiday traditions and adapted where we needed to. We have the added challenge of blending the traditions of two different countries and cultures, but we did that much the same as before as well. Since Christmas in Sweden is celebrated on Christmas Eve, we usually celebrate a Swedish Christmas on the 24th and an American Christmas on the 25th. Which country we happen to be in dictates which of these is the bigger celebration, including larger family gatherings.

We still had a Christmas tree, though it was a small, table-top type that we were grateful to borrow from my aunt and uncle. We brought a small box of favorite/special ornaments with us from Sweden. A larger tree would have been very bare, but on this small tree, it worked very well. We kept our tradition of building a gingerbread house, though for the first time we bought a pre-baked kit rather than making our own from scratch. We were invited to borrow my aunt and uncle’s kitchen to bake cookies, so we made cut-out sugar cookies and decorated them.

RV Christmas tree

Our little Christmas tree, together with the forest scene Advent calendar that added an animal each day in December

Decorating the gingerbread house and some cookies

On Christmas Eve, the kids opened presents from our Swedish family, who could watch them via Skype. They got dressed in their new Christmas clothes and we went to an afternoon family church service. For dinner we ate “Tomtegröt” (rice porridge) and ham sandwiches. In Sweden we would buy the rice porridge pre-made and heat it up, or at least a specific kind of rice to make it with. Staffan did a great job of making it from scratch, even though we didn’t have the right kind of rice and it wasn’t exactly the right consistency. And the bread for the sandwiches wasn’t the traditional Christmas bread, but it was good anyway. We had true Swedish “pepparkakor” (gingerbread cookies) and we even watched the Donald Duck Christmas special that nearly everyone in Sweden watches at 3pm on Christmas Eve.

Posture aside, they look so cute in their fancy outfits!

Setting up for eating “Tomtegröt” and watching Kalle Anka (Donald Duck) on the computer

On Christmas morning, the kids opened their presents from us and their stockings from Santa. They watched the Disney Christmas parade just hours after opening presents that revealed that we are going to Disney World in February. We gathered with extended family for snacks, presents, and our traditional wrapping paper battle. After that we had a wonderful turkey dinner, pumpkin pie and even more presents with my parents and siblings. It was intense and exhausting and joy-filled and wonderful. In other words, exactly how Christmas should be for families with young children.

Christmas morning!

The stockings were hung by the stereo with care…

Wrapping paper war action shot of the family

Handsome little man opening lots of presents

When you really think about it, what really makes Christmas special is sharing it with people you love, enjoying each other’s company, and above all celebrating a God who would sacrifice everything just to be with us. Traditions certainly have their value, and we kept many of ours and perhaps started some new ones. But the things that matter most aren’t too dependent on square footage. “Together” is one of our family’s guiding words, and on our first camper Christmas, that’s exactly what we were: together.

 

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