In the fall of 2016, we hosted the inaugural International YMCA Camp Conference, and I was given the opportunity to meet camp professionals from all over the globe. That experience gave me a better understanding of what the Y does for communities across the world, and I was really inspired to bring that to our guests. Last summer I reached out to the participants that I met and inquired how they celebrate the holiday season. I had been looking to add some programming to our annual Festival of the Holidays and knew that there were several celebrations in the month of December. As responses came in, I did some research and tried to find a way to incorporate many of these traditions into our weekend programming. This became last weekend’s International Festival of the Holidays. From paper lanterns (seen above) in celebration of Little Candles Day to caroling through camp and breaking a pinata for Las Posadas, we tried many new things and celebrated a total of 14 different December holidays. The dining hall supported our efforts with a watermelon drink for Sheb-e-Yalda and a special Feast of the 7 Fishes on Saturday for dinner. We made ornaments in the Wood Shop, painted bisque figurines in the Pottery Studio, and made wreaths in celebration of Winter Solstice.
The most special part about our International Festival of the Holidays was seeing families come together. It is so easy to get caught up in the stress of the holiday season and forget that spending time with one another is what the season is really all about. We welcomed over 100 community guests for the day on Saturday, and they were able to participate fully in all of our programs. Lodging was free for those who stayed with us for the weekend.
If the special programs during the day were not enough, we also were gifted with a very special performance from The Bronx Opera on Saturday evening. Michael Spierman is the Founder and Artistic Director of the ensemble, and each year he brings up some very special vocalists to give us a concert in The Castle. The first half is a variety of traditional opera pieces, and the second half is carols, ending with a sing-along. It is always an incredible performance, and I think this year may have been one of the best ever. We are incredibly blessed to have these performers a part of our Frost Valley family during this heartwarming weekend.
It is always special to be able to give back during the holidays. Every week throughout the year, Frost Valley donates meals to families in our local community. As part of the Festival of the Holidays, we asked guests and staff to donate toiletries and food to go along with those meals this week. They were delivered yesterday, and our neighbors were incredibly thankful.
Frost Valley’s annual Festival of the Holidays is held the first weekend in December each year. We would love for you to join us for our next one.