by Tennessee Bowling, Deer Run Alumna
In the Bowling household our Christmas traditions are serious business. We have traditions for every aspect of the holiday season. Christmas Eve we always drag our table in front of the fireplace and eat our dinner of fish chowder. Christmas morning breakfast is always southern style biscuits and gravy (with my dad’s famous homemade biscuits.) A tradition started by my grandmother is our “sock tins”. Everyone in the family has a tin with their name on it, still in my late grandmother’s handwriting. The older my cousins and I get, the more exciting those Smartwool socks in the tin become. Whether we realize it or not, every community we are a part of has its traditions.
Camp is full of traditions too. No Deer Run staff meeting is complete without the counselors circling up, sticking in their left hand (because that one is closest to your heart) and shouting “ahhhh Deer Run!” It’s not really an opening day rally if we don’t end with a rousing “Days of Elijah,” complete with hand motions and dancing on the chapel stage. A hundred other traditions could be named: Sing-us-a-song, breakfast cookout, Staff Special, Krazy Karnival, Allagash rocks…the list could go on forever. The final tradition of the summer is always the candle lighting ceremony to end closing campfire. We form a circle around the campfire, Mary Beth lights her candle from the fire in the middle and then, bit by bit, Inspiration Point is filled with the light from 200 campers and staff. Each year Mary Beth reminds the girls of the light of Christ that filled them up over their time at camp. Then one by one we blow out our candles and when it is completely dark we sing “Sanctuary.” Although our faces are no longer illuminated by the light, our voices lifted together remind us we are not alone even in the dark. Before everyone returns to their cabins, Mary Beth tells everyone to take their candles home and light them on Christmas Eve.
In order to have traditions, you must have a community to create them and carry them out year after year. Sometimes this looks like eating the same breakfast each Christmas morning with your family, and sometimes it looks like screaming down a “slip ‘n’ slide” with friends every summer. Our traditions mean something shared, creating a bond between one another. Repeating a ritual reminds us that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves, and lighting the closing campfire candles reminds us of the light of Christ that we share in community. When you are not at Brookwoods, Deer Run or Moose River Outpost, it is easy to feel alone, just your little light flickering. The tradition of lighting our candles on Christmas Eve serves as a reminder that even though we are spread apart, together we can still light up the darkness with the light of Christ in us. Our greatest comfort and hope is the certainty that Christ remains with us even when we blow the candle out.
Tennessee Bowling (pictured on left) recently graduated from Grove City College with at B.A. in Communications and French. She is one of the few that can say she literally “grew up at camp”, (her family lives in the Owl cabin) not just “going to camp”. She served on staff for four years. One of her favorite camp memories is canoeing the Allagash both as an LDP and as an LDP counselor. You can reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.