Holidays Will Never Be The Same Again - 2019 Edition

There is a sense of comfort that comes with the holidays. The same traditions each year can create meaningful memories. Eating the same turkey meal at Thanksgiving has nothing do with historical accuracy but somewhere along the lines it was decided what the typical Thanksgiving meal would consist of. There is a degree of comfort to know that on one day a year many people around the country are celebrating in a similar way, hopefully blessed by being surrounded by the ones they love.

Since we broke loose from the suburbs in January of 2019, the structure of our new “normal” continued to be different from before. Holidays changed a little and now have different “requirements” for the fulltime RVer. We have learned that you better have reservations somewhere ahead of time, because a holiday is when non-fulltime RVers will be heading out on vacations and filling up all the good spots. If you don’t keep on top of this, Christmas in a Walmart parking lot might be your result.

We began to celebrate holidays in a new way.

Easter was with my sister at her house in Illinois. Birthday cakes have to be cooked one layer at a time in our tiny RV oven. Sometimes we even travel on a holiday. To avoid border traffic, we left the country on the Fourth of July to spend the rest of summer in Canada. Unfortunately, that meant our holiday was different as we were missing fireworks and patriotic parades (but there was no line at the border).

Kids standing in front of outdoor Christmas Lights

Gavin and Elliot in St Augustine at Night of Lights.

The winter holidays were different too. Being far away, we missed time with extended family. There were no fun family get togethers, church dinners, or parties with friends. So, we made the best of it and started a few new traditions and learned from other RVers how they celebrate in their cultures.

Yet one holiday goal worked out well for the first time. For years we have wanted to simplify our holiday celebrations, focus more on their meaning and get away from the over-consumerism. We love having less distractions, and way less room to put possessions whereby forcing us to buy less. We make attempts toward minimalism because, let me tell you, with a large family, things can get out of hand quickly just by the math. For example, 5 gifts x 7 kids = 35 new things. What if they all were to get 10 things – ug! It’s a math equation where the answer is always clutter.

An Outdoor Thanksgiving

This was our first Thanksgiving on our own. We had always been near family but now, with winter temperatures in mind, we were about as far away as US roads would take us. There are only a few states to get away from the cold, so we made late November reservations at Huguenot Memorial Park outside of Jacksonville, Florida.

Best family eating Thanksgiving dinner outside in sunny Florida

Best Family having Thanksgiving dinner in Florida - 2019.

Since it was just our family for Thanksgiving, I decided to forgo the whole turkey meal and go for a simpler meal. Chicken Pot Pie from Costco for the win. The kids still wanted mashed potatoes so I whipped those up too. We ended our meal with pumpkin pie after a foray to the beach. A unique aspect of our Thanksgiving meal is that we were able to eat outside. That would never happen in Utah or Idaho in November.

Truth be told, it didn’t feel much like a “holiday” but more like a normal day – though not a completely typical day for me. We try to hit the beach as often as possible, however, a day at the beach is still unique. Being away from it all, I really felt I had a choice with how I wanted it to be. Experiencing a Thanksgiving as just our family this way, really made me appreciate all of our previous years. Maybe next year we will brave the cold to be near family and friends.

You can successfully do Christmas in an RV!

We tried to keep some traditions the same, but we obviously needed to change many of the ways we enjoyed the season. First off, since we move around often, I didn't want to decorate much until we were at our Christmas reservation. Planning ahead and making reservations more than a week in advance is unusual for us, but we wanted to ensure we’d have plenty of time in one location to really slow down and enjoy the season.

I figured RV living would sadly mean the kids wouldn’t get to visit with Santa. I shouldn't have worried about that at all. Santa was everywhere! We had multiple occasions where the kids were able to let Santa know what they wanted for Christmas and take a photo, including the classic crying baby sitting on Santa's lap.

Baby crying on Santa's lap

Jonah meets Santa.

Throughout the month of December, I was pleasantly surprised with the quantity and quality of local Christmas festivals in many small towns in Florida. For us it was fun and unique to see palm trees strung with Christmas lights, aerial silk dancers, buskers, and food trucks when back “home” it’s below freezing. Being able to walk around in sandals and see Christmas lights was a bit mind blowing. This was my kind of Christmas.

Some of our favorite events were the Nights of Lights in St. Augustine where the entire historic section of the city was decorated in white lights. We happened to visit on an unusually cold night and we weren’t prepared for the cold so we walked through the town quickly. It was a bit weird (and funny) to see all of the tour trolleys driving past us blasting Christmas music with everyone singing along. It seemed like everyone was in such a happy mood.

We were able to use our Boondocker’s Welcome membership for a few days and stayed near the town of Eustis, Florida. Unexpectedly, our amazing hosts created a list of things to do nearby which included several Christmas events for the weekend.

The small town of Mount Dora held a great event where they shut off several streets and opened it up for a party. Stores stayed open late, food trucks rolled in, Santa was ready for all the kids and our favorite - bubble machines blowing bubbles that looked like snow!

The city of Tavares held a Christmas parade which was a blast. There were so many fun floats, cool cars and plenty of candy thrown for the kids. Following the parade was another celebration with people handing out hot chocolate, cookies and candy canes, aerial dancers, musicians on stage and closing with fireworks over the lake.

Kids making gingerbread houses while camping

Making gingerbread houses at the campground.

Wauchula had a small Christmas Festival with the highlight being the sledding on real snow. That's right, an ice company hauled in snow for the kids to go sledding on.

Each night (okay, some nights) we read from the New Testament to focus on Jesus. Stored in a box at ‘home’ is our favorite pre-RV tradition, a box of ornaments called “The 25 Days of Christ”. Each day you hang a new testament themed ornament and read the biblical account that correlates. We used to do this each night during the month of December and was such a nice way to end each day. Maybe we can plan ahead for next year and have that with us.

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly Merry Christmas.Peg Bracken

For me, the best moments were spent at the RV. I taught the kids how to make popcorn garlands. We popped so much popcorn so I’m glad we had our Whirley Pop with us. There were paper snowflakes to decorate the inside of our RV. We made gingerbread houses and sugar cookies for Santa. We watched Christmas movies on Prime, Pluto, Roku Channel, Tubi and had daily dancing parties in our RV.

Kids stringing popcorn garland

Making popcorn garland for Christmas.

RV holiday decorations - paper snowflakes taped to wall

Paper decorations in the RV.

We had the kids draw names for presents and I would take each individually on a date to pick something out for the sibling they had drawn. I loved seeing how excited they were to pick the perfect gift for their brother or sister. Some of them also wanted to make gifts for one another so I helped them make homemade play dough, kinetic sand, hot chocolate mix, coupons and chocolate chip cookie mix.

Christmas morning was lovely and simple.

We didn't do many gifts for various reasons including not having room, wanting to simplify our life and eliminating frivolous budget expenditures. The kids were all excited with each gift they received. Instead of mittens and socks, they all received swimsuits and goggles since Christmas in Florida requires a different wardrobe.

Santa brought the older kids fun, small and unique instruments to enhance our music nights. Now our quiet moments are even more rare - thank you Santa! We can now have jam sessions with Lydia's Retro Synthesizer, Oliver’s Ocarina, Gavin’s Stylophone Beatbox and Evelyn’s Otomotone.

It was fun to play new Christmas games outside - in shorts! No Stress Chess (shipped to the campground from their grandparents) was a hit. We further simplified the day with a family walk around the campground and stopping to talk to others. I had planned on making a ham dinner, but that fell through due to my inexperience in cooking an un-cured ham. The kids didn't care or even really notice. I missed it, but know it wasn't necessary.

Playing chess on Christmas Day on picnic table in Peace River RV Park in Florida

Playing Chess on Christmas Day.