By Lea Kone, MCE Community Manager
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. This truly American holiday was first celebrated in 1621, soon after the Mayflower landed English settlers in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As history books tell us, the new colony of English settlers joined in a peaceful feast with the native Wampanoag tribe to celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest. On this first Thanksgiving, the settlers and the tribe members not only shared that famed meal together, but they also played ball games and sang songs. New friends, joining in activities, food and song….seems a lot like a day at a Maine camp, huh?
This thought, makes me consider: What would it look like if we celebrated Thanksgiving at camp? This below short story is an imaginary account of what a perfect Maine Camp Thanksgiving might look like:
It’s Thanksgiving morning in a small town in Maine. I’m awake before the campers. The sun is peeking through the windows of our cabin, and I’ve begun to hear the sounds of early morning at camp. The camper in the bunk behind me turns, the bed creaks just slightly. There is a soft snore coming from the direction of my co-counselor. I can hear squirrels and chipmunks playing outside busily securing their bounty for winter storage. As I sit quietly, I begin to think of the day ahead at camp. It is a special day at camp-different than one of our typical activity days. It is Thanksgiving. Like other “special days” at camp-this morning we can sleep in. Breakfast will be served an hour later this morning. As my campers sleep I tip-toe through the cabin and tie a bandana onto each of their bed-frames. There are four bandana colors- red, orange, yellow and brown. I’ve alternated each color so that there are 2 campers with each color in my cabin. Counselors in the other cabins are doing the same. When the campers awaken they will see their bandana and know their team for the “big games” this afternoon.
Suddenly the bell rings, our campers pop-up from bed, and seeing their bandanas begin to shriek with excitement. Cheers of RED-ORANGE-YELLOW and BROWN begin to form and there is a symphony of camp song echoing through camp.
The campers settle down and we head to breakfast. Steam rises from the lake, and we huddle together to keep warm in the crisp morning air. When we enter the dining hall we are welcomed by the smell of pancakes and maple syrup. But also a rare treat at camp. There is a TV in the Dining Hall and we can see that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is underway. There are quick thoughts of home, but campers begin to join together with their teams and sit for breakfast.
After breakfast the Camp Director announces the beginning of the Thanksgiving Auction-a favorite camp tradition. Each cabin is given $100 in “Monopoly” money to bid on food items to cook their cabin’s Thanksgiving dish. There are tables full of potatoes, onions, cranberries, pumpkins, flour, sugar and more. As each item comes to bid the campers scream with excitement. They quickly strategize, count and recount their money. As the auction concludes each cabin announces in great gusto which dish they will make for Thanksgiving dinner. There will be:
Sweet potato “s’mores-style” casserole with marshmallows and graham cracker crumbling, mashed-potatoes, cranberry-sauce, green bean casserole, corn pudding, traditional dressing, cornbread stuffing, apple pies, pumpkin pies and so much more!
Plus, in making with tradition-the kitchen staff will roast the largest most succulent turkeys along with delicious turkey gravy.
For the remainder of the morning campers cut, chop, stir and assemble their Thanksgiving dishes. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is still playing faintly in the background, but conversations have turned towards the afternoon games.
Following lunch campers scurry back to their cabins and begin to “gear-up” for the big games. Suddenly the cabin is an array of these four Thanksgiving colors. Along with the bandanas, campers have now donned shorts, leggings, t-shirts and face-paint. Even though in just minutes they will be opponents, they have shared and traded their clothing so that each camper can be dressed in head to toe spirit for the games.
As the campers put on their final costume touches, a bugle is heard calling us to the field. Everything is dropped and the entire camp races to the field. The rainbow of colors begins to split and standing on each corner of the field, those four colored teams have gathered. Hearts are pounding, cheers are booming. The annual Thanksgiving Game has begun. The game is a modified-version of Capture the Flag-played four ways. The game is intense, played quickly and every team member is essential to the game. The red team scores- then the brown. The game is tied. Then yellow comes out of nowhere and scores. The orange team has zero points and is feeling frustrated and defeated. Then while no one is paying attention a first year camper on the orange team runs towards the ball. They have it in their hands, and are running with a huge smile. The other teams try and catch up but the orange player is too far ahead and scores! It’s a four-way tie. Then the bugle calls again. The games are over. A tie!
Muddy, tired and voices spent-the campers head back to their cabins. After showering, changing and calming down, I gather my campers together sitting in a circle on the cabin floor. One by one we go around the circle and share what we have enjoyed about the day so far. If there are frustrations or concerns we share them as well. This is something we do every day but today in the spirit of Thanksgiving we focus on sharing things we are grateful for. We write a combined cabin note of gratitude. The list includes simple and silly things that we love around camp- but also big important things, like our family, our cabin-mates, the food we are about to eat and the happiness that camp brings us. I am so impressed by my campers thoughtfulness, that my eyes well with tears. I thank them and express that I feel incredibly grateful to have each and every one of them in my life and for the experience that camp has given me as a counselor.
We dress up for dinner-much fancier than a typical day at camp. The girls are wearing skirts and the boys are wearing button down shirts with jeans. By dressing up we are reminded, that today and this meal are very special. As we enter the dining hall we see that the room is decorated with the four team colors- red, orange, yellow and brown. There are candles flickering, music playing and tablecloths on the tables. The smell is amazing. Our stomachs rumble in excitement.
There is nothing like Thanksgiving at camp.
The Thanksgiving holiday is built upon the simple foundation of gathering family and friends together to share a meal and to express our gratitude. That’s the core. Yet, each gathering is unique, just as each of our Maine Camps families is unique. We wish each of our Maine Camps families a truly wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Blessings from our tables to yours.
Maine Camp Experience Resources & Tools
Looking for the perfect Maine camp for your child? Try out our helpful tool where you can select a camp by choosing: type of camp (girls, boys or coed) and session length (1-8 weeks). It helps to narrow down a few camps to a manageable list that includes rates. Then you can research these camps in more depth.
Next, be sure to contact our Maine Camp Guide, Laurie to discuss these camps as well as for free, year-round advice and assistance on choosing a great Maine summer camp for your child.
Talk to Laurie, our Maine Campcierge™, about choosing the right camp for your child and what to do in Maine.