There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays

By Steve Chitwood, National Alumni Board


As my cab emerged from the Midtown Tunnel into Manhattan, I noticed a Christmas tree lot at one end of an overpass. As long as I can remember, I’ve associated New York City with Christmas, though not on a personal level. Rockefeller Center, ornate department store windows and holiday musicals have always come to mind when thinking about holidays in the city.

Now, as I rode though the late night streets of Manhattan in the rain, my focus turned inward. I noticed Christmas trees in apartment windows and wreaths on doors. I imagined families decorating, preparing for guests, shopping or making plans to connect with friends to enjoy the season.

I thought about my favorite holiday celebrations. There was the Christmas market in Nuremberg, Germany, when I was very young and traveling with my father. There was also the year when the tree we brought home from the neighborhood lot was too tall for the house, so my dad cut off the top of the tree, giving the illusion that it was growing through the ceiling.

As is inevitable when I think of Christmas memories, my mind drifted to the happy memories of Christmases I spent at the A/U Ranches. Early in December we’d start the preparations of turning on the water to the cabins, lighting the furnaces and delivering the linens. Roads would be plowed and walkways shoveled. Those were quiet days with only a couple of us on the property, but the excitement grew in anticipation of first the staff’s arrival and then the guests. A sense of welcoming our A/U Ranches family home for the holidays fueled this work.


Before too long, hugs were had, the cabins were full and fireplaces lit. Christmas had come to the Ranches. My list of memories is like an album of cherished photos: pulling a 25-foot spruce through the forest on horseback with a rope tied to my saddle horn; hoisting the tree high in Valerie Lodge; making ornaments; all-night Euchre marathons; stringing miles of popcorn garland; chatting by the fire; playing broomstick hockey on the lake; participating in silly skiing games at Ski Cooper; and, of course, making it from Hilltop all the way to the Sky Valley pastures on a sled, giggling like a child the entire way.

All of us who have spent time at the A/U Ranches recognize the impact those experiences made on us – whether at Christmas Camp or at other times. While a Times Square falafel cart decorated with twinkle lights has a certain allure, for me there’s no more authentic way to spend the holiday than at Christmas Camp at the Ranches.

It’s not too late to feel the Christ spirit at the A/U Ranches this year! Click here to register for Christmas Camp.

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