“Build traditions of family vacations and trips and outings. These memories will never be forgotten by your children.” – Ezra Taft Benson
Every family has a Christmas tradition, but have you ever wondered how your tradition began?
When I was in my early twenties, my family began a Christmas tradition. Christmas was always so very busy for all of us that one Christmas we decided to go to a retreat center in Schroon Lake in the Adirondack Mountains in New York State for the week after Christmas. We left our New Jersey home the day after Christmas and returned right after New Year’s Day. That first Christmas was so enjoyable, and renewing and restful, that spending the week in Schroon Lake between Christmas and New Year’s quickly became a family Christmas tradition.
Enjoying Our Own “Family Winter Olympics” Also Became a Christmas Tradition
In Schroon Lake our family would stay in a Swiss chalet. The old main lodge, with its huge inviting stone fireplaces, was next door. That was also where we had our meals. In the Adirondacks it was not unusual for the temperatures to drop to 40 degrees below zero, especially at night. The snow would crunch under your feet and the stars would seem so close that you could reach up and touch them. Thermal underwear and layer upon layer of clothing was the rule.
In spite of the extreme temperatures, we spent most of our time outdoors. My father was an excellent ice skater – the rest of the family could hardly stand up on skates. I will never forget the time I went skating with my dad on an outdoor pond in the back of the property. There had been quite a bit of wind when the temperatures dropped and the pond froze. In other words, the pond was anything but smooth. Here I was, a novice skater, holding up my father, who was an expert skater. It was laughable.
In Schroon Lake, Cross Country Skiing Became a Christmas Tradition for Me
My favorite winter sports were tobogganing, tubing and snowmobiling, that is until I was introduced to cross country skiing that first year. I quickly developed a passion for the sport, although – please don’t laugh – I hated sliding down hills. I was lousy at that! Oh, I was okay on the flat field and the wooded trails, but every time I came to a little hill, terror would strike. I’d have to scissor my way down. To be honest, I think that what I loved most was being out in the quiet woods with a lightly falling snow. The kind of snow fall when there is complete silence except for the ping as the flakes hit the trees. It was so peaceful and calm!
Learning to Snow Shoe for the First Time – No Christmas Tradition There!
Just to vary my routine, I decided to try snow shoeing one day. All I can say is BEWARE. NEVER try snow shoeing by yourself! The snow shoes were rented, just like the skis. Unfortunately, they were a little large for me. Fortunately, I was not snow shoeing in the woods alone.
I was just getting the knack of walking with the snow shoes when the toe of my boot slipped under one of the front bars of the snow shoe. That propelled me face down into 4 feet of snow. There I lay, totally unable to move. If a bear had come out of the woods at that moment, I would have been its dinner. To make matters worse, I got the giggles. As I said, fortunately I was not alone. But, have you ever seen a man on snow shoes try to maneuver to be able to lift another person out of a snow grave? I had visions of being in that position all winter long.
When I Think of a Christmas Tradition, I Think of Warm and Cozy
At the end of each of our cross country skiing days, when we returned to the ski equipment shack, there was a crackling fire to greet and warm us. After we stripped off our wet jackets and gloves, we would warm up drinking hot mulled cider and eating freshly made doughnuts. That always topped off my favorite experiences from this Christmas tradition. Whenever I think of special Christmas memories with my family, I think of our Christmas trips to Schroon Lake, New York.