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Camping Out For Christmas

Dec 4, 2017

My holiday playlist is in full swing, and all the classics are there: Bing Crosby dreams of a white Christmas while Nat King Cole roasts chestnuts on an open fire, and Judy Garland sings about letting your heart be light. I’ve sung those same words a thousand times, but I never fully appreciated the meaning of them until last year, when I finally took her advice.

For most of my life, Christmas has been tied to travel. Not necessarily over long distances, but to multiple locations. It’s always been back-to-back days of chaos and celebration, strategically planned months in advance; Mom’s house, Dad’s house, grandparents, extended family and friends. Over time, the celebrations grew to include step siblings and in-laws. As a child, it was easy to go with the flow, but as I got older and the planning grew more complicated, I realized that Christmas left me feeling more frazzled than festive. So last year, after the birth of my second son, I decided to make a change. There would be no stuffing the car with gifts and gear, driving west one day and east the next. No snowy country roads to navigate in the dark. We were staying put.


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When I first reached out to family to say we’d be camping out for Christmas, I worried that my request might sound selfish, or even Grinch-like. I didn’t want to steal Christmas away from doting grandparents, after all. So we let our loved ones know that we’d be happy to see them any time during the holidays — as long as they were willing to come to us.  And it turns out that it was the best decision we could have made.

There was still a little bit of chaos, of course — holidays with small kids will never go just the way you’d planned. There was a teary meltdown from an overtired three-year-old, and spit-up all over the baby’s new Christmas pyjamas. But for once, there was no rushing from one thing to the next, feeling like it was all a big blur of anxiety and gift wrap with a side of mashed potatoes.

Staying home for the holidays may not sound particularly life altering, but for me, it’s made all the difference. In addition to lowering my stress level, it’s given me more time to truly enjoy the holidays with my kids and share the family traditions that I couldn’t wait to pass on to them. Whether we’re baking cookies or watching a favourite festive movie, having that special time together is the gift I’ll cherish most.

Now, I realize that camping out for Christmas isn’t for everyone. For some families, travel simply can’t be avoided. And for others, hitting the road is all part of the fun. Like so many things in life, there is no single “right” way — there’s only what works best for you. Maybe this year you’ll be hosting a holiday feast for 30 people, reveling in a big family celebration. Or maybe you’re taking a pass on the hustle and bustle all together and spending Christmas with your kids on a beach somewhere. And, who knows — as my little ones get older, travel might become part of the equation once again. But for now, for us, there’s no place like home.

Article Author Alicia McAuley
Alicia McAuley

 Alicia McAuley is a freelance writer, editor and all-around web nerd who never met a pop culture reference she didn't like. The former editor of a parenting website, these days she shares a home office in the suburbs with her husband, two adorable boys, and two lazy cats. You can find her cracking jokes on Twitter @aliciamcauley and pinning projects for her to-do list on Pinterest.

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