How White Christmas Became an Iconic Holiday Song

On this day in history, December 25, 1941, Bing Crosby performed White Christmas for the first time

Created by songwriter Irving Berlin and singer Bing Crosby, White Christmas became an instant hit when it premiered in the movie Holiday Inn in 1942.

As a winter storm is set to blanket much of the nation in snow, many Americans will indeed experience a white Christmas. 

When those first few notes of the song White Christmas begin to play, your heart begins to melt. Then, the textured tones of Bing Crosby’s crooning voice fill the air and wrap around you like a warm blanket.

Dreaming of a White Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Christmas is one of the most iconic songs of the holiday season and it’s easy to see—and hear—why. Many artists, from Elvis and The Supremes to Dolly Parton and the Flaming Lips have created their renditions paying homage to the nostalgic tune.

But woven within that tune are whispers of the time, a time of global change and uncertainty, and how Hollywood and musical legends found a way to create a wistful escape.

The dreamer

It seems only fitting that the melancholy melody of the holiday tune was sung by one of the most beloved voices of the 20th century.

“At the time that Bing Crosby recorded White Christmas, he was the biggest star in the country, perhaps in the world,” said Matthew Barton, the curator of recorded sound at the Library of Congress.

“He was a huge success on records, he had a weekly radio show, and he was a major film star,” Barton added. “He really was just a towering figure and had been for a number of years.”

According to Barton, Crosby had already been recording Christmas songs as a band singer in the late 1920s and then he recorded the songs on his own in the 1930s.

“They were big hits,” Barton said. “And they became hits again every winter.”

“(Crosby’s) voice, his personality were very much, very closely associated with Christmas and Christmas music at the time,” Barton added.

Dreaming of a White Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The man behind the curtain

While Crosby might be the most recognizable name associated with White Christmas, another cultural heavy hitter was behind the song’s creation: Irving Berlin.

“Berlin wrote constantly,” Barton said. “It was not unusual for him to have quite a few songs just on hand if the occasion demanded them.”

According to Barton, Berlin wrote White Christmas in late 1939-early 1940–by that point, he had been writing hit songs for more than 25 years.

“(White Christmas) came from an idea he’d had several years earlier to do a musical revue, a series of numbers built around days in the year—holidays, specifically important days.”

Berlin, who had also recently written God Bless America by that point, presented his idea for a holiday musical revue to Hollywood film director Mark Sandrich.

“They started developing a whole story which you can now see in the film Holiday Inn which is sort of framed by the song White Christmas,” Barton said.

Dreaming of a White Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Showtime

When Holiday Inn was released in August 1942, it was an instant hit—and so was White Christmas, despite the movie’s summer premiere.

“It wasn’t really a seasonal song, but that was the one that clicked with people,” Barton said. “It was just obvious from the get-go.”

“Berlin said he knew it all along,” he added. “He thought it was the best thing he’d written to that point.”

By September, the popularity of White Christmas grew as evidenced by growing sales of the song’s sheet music.

“People just wanted this song, they wanted to hear it, and they wanted to sing it and play it themselves,” Barton said.

Come October, it tops the charts.

“You’ve got a Christmas song and it’s number one in October—I’m not sure that anyone else has ever accomplished that,” said Barton.

According to Barton, White Christmas remained at No. 1 for three months.

Dreaming of a White Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Notes of nostalgia

Probably one of the most striking aspects of the song’s popularity is its somber, nostalgic sentiment.

In Holiday Inn, Bing Crosby’s character is down on his luck on Christmas Eve as he dreams of a white Christmas.

“If you see the film, you know it’s very much about the loss and loneliness that he’s feeling at the time,” Barton said. “It just invokes this image of being so far from where you want to be.”

This image is also set upon a dark backdrop outside the movie. 

When Berlin wrote White Christmas in late 1939-early 1940, the country was right on the heels of the Great Depression and on the cusp of World War II.

“The war had started but we weren’t in it,” Barton said. “It was something that’s very much in the headlines and very much on people’s minds.”

By the time Holiday Inn premiered with White Christmas in tow in 1942, the U.S. had joined the war. 

According to Barton, the country’s involvement may have informed how Crosby sang the song, what he was thinking about, and how people listened to the song.

Dreaming of a White Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Somber songcraft

For Berlin, the inspiration for writing such a somber song may have been influenced by his personal feelings of loneliness.

“He was a show business veteran of many decades and it was not unusual for him to be away from home or to be working long days that everybody else was just relaxing and enjoying themselves,” Barton said.

According to Barton, Berlin also had sad memories of Christmas Day having lost an infant son on the holiday.

“He said that he visited that son’s grave every year on the 25th of December,” Barton said. 

Berlin was also well aware of the universal nature of distance and loss, whether of loved ones or of times long past, and hoping for a brighter future.

An Arizona Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The canon of culture

Eighty-two years have passed since Holiday Inn introduced the public to White Christmas—a song that has resonated with countless listeners worldwide.

In 2002, it became one of the first songs added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. 

According to Barton, the registry is an ongoing initiative of the Library of Congress to recognize and draw attention to, popularize, and promote the preservation of recordings that are historically, aesthetically, and technically significant.

Given the significance of White Christmas, its placement in the registry comes as no surprise.

“I feel that any good music, good records, that there’s always a good story behind them,” Barton said. “And that’s certainly the case with White Christmas.”

Worth Pondering…

Christmas is the day that holds all time together.

—Alexander Smith

Merry Christmas to all…

The Christmas Song

Christmas is the day that holds all time together.

—Alexander Smith

The Nat King Cole Trio recorded The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You) in 1946 and turned it into a Christmas classic one year after Bob Well and Mel Torme wrote it. The song is also commonly subtitled as Chestnut’s Roasting on an Open Fire due to its opening lyrics.

Multiple song arrangements have been recorded throughout the years but the most notable version has to be Cole’s which includes the warm sounds of a small string section. The lyrics are filled with warm Christmas feelings and sweet holiday imagery including: “Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe/ Help to make the season bright…Yuletide carols being sung by a choir/ And folks dressed up like Eskimos.”

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The popular Christmas song has been covered by many artists including Christina Aguilera for her 2000 album, My Kind of Christmas and Michael Bublé on his Let it Snow EP.

Check out the full lyrics below to get in the Christmas spirit. 

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight
They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother’s child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly

And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you

And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you 

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is Christmas Eve and I hope you are reading this someplace cozy, surrounded by friends and family, your partner, your dog, your cat… 

I hope there’s a soft chime of Christmas music playing in the background and something delicious cooking in the oven. I hope you are warm, healthy, and grateful for everything mentioned above.

If this year looks different for you, if you are not warm, or healthy, or surrounded by friends and family, this space is for you too.

This year, much like the past two, has presented new challenges. Prices are high, gifts may be fewer, and miles traveled may also be fewer.

Things that are always free to give: love, kindness, a smile, a wave, a hug, your favorite book off your bookshelf, a phone call…

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I’ve been working hard to try and define ourselves here at rvingwithrex.com. Who are we really? What’s the point of all this? Why do I do what I do? Much of it boils down to my love of the RV lifestyle and a desire to share my years of experiences—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you have an RV whether it’s a big Class A that you live in full-time whether it’s a small teardrop trailer that you and your family take out on the weekends or whether you live in an RV because it’s your only option or place of shelter, it doesn’t matter. One thing I’ll always say: We’re all RVers. Our community is for everyone.

As usual, I will post a newsletter tomorrow and I wish you the Merriest of Christmases—and, to my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah.

Whatever your day may be, wherever you are and however you’re spending it—may your day be merry and bright.

Worth Pondering…

A joy that is shared is a joy made double.

John Roy

On This Day in History, December 19, 1843: Charles Dickens Publishes A Christmas Carol

Timeless tale of human redemption and self discovery

A Christmas Carol, a globally celebrated timeless tale of heartwarming human redemption crafted as a haunting holiday ghost story, was published in London on this day in history, December 19, 1843.  

Except for the biblical narrative of the birth of Christ itself, A Christmas Carol may be the world’s most well-known and most frequently retold tale of the holiday.

English author Charles Dickens, 31 years old at the time, had recently gained literary celebrity following the release of Sketches by Boz, The Pickwick Papers, and Oliver Twist.

Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Christmas Carol was written over a few short weeks to ensure its publication before Christmas 1843 but its message has stood the test of time notes the Charles Dickens Museum of London. 

“Recognized by critics on its publication as ‘a national benefit to every man and woman who reads it a personal kindness’, the story has been retold and adapted ever since.” 

Rich, miserly, and lonely, Ebenezer Scrooge derives pleasure only in his money, bitterly laments the arrival of Christmas and the joy displayed by its celebrants, and detests the indigents who suffer on the streets of Industrial Revolution London. 

“If they would rather die they had better do it and decrease the surplus population,” Scrooge says in one alarming insight into his soul. 

Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yet he is filled with goodwill toward man after a series of ghosts take him on a journey through his life of joyful past, detestable present, and ominous future.  

“His wealth is of no use to him. He don’t do any good with it,” Scrooge’s nephew says in a revealing moment of the emptiness of his dispirited existence. 

A Christmas Carol has gone down as Dickens’ most famous and most culturally impactful story in a career that produced a long list of classics that followed. Among them: David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations.

Characters and catchphrases from the short book have not only stood the test of time; they entered the lexicon on both sides of the Atlantic and remain there nearly 200 years later.

Scrooge is synonym for a miser. 

His signature terse retort, “Bah, humbug” is uttered to express grumpy mocking disdain. 

Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dickensian describes situations of urban decay or the poor who live among it such as Scrooge’s browbeaten employee, Bob Cratchit. 

“God bless us, everyone,” the gleeful refrain at the end of A Christmas Carol, spoken by Cratchit’s crippled son Tiny Tim is an often-used toast that sums up almost any joyful occasion when other words fail.

“Though he spent mere weeks writing it, Dickens’ novella about the original Christmas Grinch has been a holiday staple for nearly two centuries, giving rise to countless adaptations for stage and screen,” Paulette Beete wrote in 2020 for the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Beete cites an incredible list of adaptions: more than 100 film versions according to the International Movie Database, 20 television series that have featured A Christmas Carol or its characters; four operas, two ballets; and even a video game. 

Several versions of A Christmas Carol have become annual holiday viewing fare for millions of families. 

A 1951 black-and-white version starring Alistair Sims as Scrooge is considered a classic among the many adapts and is still found on television nearly 75 years later. 

Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dickens’ beloved tale of Christmas in 19th-century London may have had its origins in the United States. The young author visited the United States in 1842 where he met one of his literary icons, the much older and more celebrated American author Washington Irving. Dickens spent time with Irving and his brother, Ebenezer Irving. 

Dickens returned to England and began writing A Christmas Carol.

Character archetypes who liven the pages of A Christmas Carol first appeared in Irving’s writing, literary scholars and Irving fans have noted as do many of the idyllic images we now associate with a classic 19th-century Christmas. 

“Irving (as alter ego Geoffrey Crayon) waxes rhapsodic over the traditional pleasures of Christmas at a fictional country estate called Bracebridge Hall,” notes the website of Historic Hudson Valley where Irving lived and placed many of his stories. 

“If any author can lay claim to inventing this venerable holiday, it’s Washington Irving.”

“I say, gentlemen, I do not go to bed two nights out of seven without taking Washington Irving under my arm upstairs to bed with me,” Dickens reportedly said, according to multiple sources. 

Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yet there is no doubting the impact of A Christmas Carol on the holiday season or on English-language literature. 

Scrooge “became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world,” Dickens writes at the end of the famous tale.  

“Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh … His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.”

Worth Pondering…

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Poinsettia: The Christmas Flower That Blooms in the Dark

Poinsettia plants (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are popular Christmas decorations and are also the highest selling potted plant in the world

The poinsettia plant (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is the equivalent of Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You. You don’t even remember they exist until the first day you walk into a store in November and suddenly it’s the holiday season and Christmas is coming.

And then you’re positively bombarded with them until January 1 at which point Mariah Carey probably gets her giant royalty check for the year (a 2016 study by The Economist found that Carey makes about $2.5m per year for the song and the song had made $60m until that year) and goes on vacation and all the poinsettias just…disappear.

And just like Mariah’s popular Christmas bop, poinsettias are economically important—they’re the highest-selling potted plant in the world. During the holiday season, the six weeks leading up to Christmas, $250 million worth of poinsettia plants—70 million plants—are sold in the United States alone. The plants are even more popular in Europe. There are over 100 different varieties of poinsettia plants patented in the United States.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History of the Poinsettia

Poinsettias were cultivated by the Aztecs and though they didn’t grow in the capital city of Tenochtitlan—now Mexico City—Aztec royalty imported the flowers from lower elevations during the winter months for use as a medicine to control fevers and as a reddish-purple fabric dye.

The Nahua people of Mexico and Central America call these Aztec favorites cuetlaxochitl but they go by many other names, too—lobster flower, flame leaf flower, La Flor de la Nochebuena (Christmas Eve flower).

But poinsettia is probably the weirdest name of all because it’s just a shout-out to the American diplomat who is credited with being the first to bring them back to the U.S. from Mexico in the 19th century. Joel Roberts Poinsett was the first U.S. minister to Mexico and as an amateur botanist is said to have sent some cuttings back to his home in South Carolina from Southern Mexico in 1828 although there is no irrefutable proof of this.

Another Christmas tradition: Pecan Pralines a Sweet Tradition

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is known is that the plant was on display in Philadelphia in 1829, associated with Poinsett’s name. The plant was immediately popular and was known henceforth as the poinsettia although it didn’t receive its official Latin name until 1934 when German botanist Karl Willde was given a cutting by a Scottish friend who had seen it in Philadelphia and named it Euphorbia pulcherrima.

In the 1920s the Ecke family of Encinitas, California started farming poinsettias and they tirelessly pushed them as a symbol of the Christmas season. Today, around 70 percent of the poinsettia plants you buy in the United States come from Ecke Ranch and poinsettia care is their lifeblood.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Caring for Poinsettias

The length of time your poinsettia will give you pleasure in your home is dependent on the maturity of the plant when you buy it, and how you treat the plant. With care, poinsettias should retain their beauty for weeks and some varieties will stay attractive for months.

After you have made your poinsettia selection, make sure it is wrapped properly because exposure to low temperatures even for a few minutes can damage the bracts and leaves.

Unwrap your poinsettia carefully and place it in an indirect light. Six hours of light daily is ideal. Keep the plant from touching cold windows.

Keep poinsettias away from warm or cold drafts from radiators, air registers, open doors, and windows.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ideally, poinsettias require daytime temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temperatures of around 55 degrees. High temperatures will shorten the plant’s life. Move the plant to a cooler room at night, if possible.

Check the soil daily. Be sure to punch holes in foil so water can drain into a saucer. Water when soil is dry. Allow water to drain into the saucer and discard excess water. Wilted plants will tend to drop bracts sooner.

Fertilize the poinsettia if you keep it past the holiday season. Apply a houseplant fertilizer once a month. Do not fertilize when it is in bloom.

With good care, a poinsettia will last 6-8 weeks in your home or RV.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to keep a Poinsettia alive

Every houseplant—even a hyper-seasonal one—is kept alive somewhere year-round. Poinsettias hail from the mid-elevation regions of Mexico and Central America where they can grow over 10 feet tall as a perennial winter-flowering shrub with milky sap and branches so long they sometimes look like vines.

The big, showy red, white, or pink flowers we’re used to seeing aren’t actually the poinsettia’s flowers at all, but modified leaves called bracts. The flower buds are the small yellow buds in the middle of the colorful bracts.

Another Christmas tradition: The Holiday Season Favorite Veggie: Sweet Potato or Yam?

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you buy a poinsettia at the grocery store it comes already sporting its brightly colored, fancy bracts. You have no idea how hard it was to get them there. Fritz Bahr, the author of Fritz Bahr’s commercial floriculture: a practical manual for the retail grower (1937), described the delicate and finicky poinsettia thusly: “Perhaps no other plant or flower we handle during Christmas week is more short lived, wilts quicker, or is more disappointing to those who receive it; yet, when the next Christmas comes around, there comes again the same demand for poinsettias and the disappointments of a year ago are all forgotten.”

Over time, floriculturists overcame some of these problems but until the mid-1950s, growing poinsettias and getting them into the hands of Christmas revelers in relatively good shape was a real trick. That was, until somebody realized poinsettias need just one thing to turn their green bracts red, pink, or white: total darkness.

In order to induce your poinsettia plant to create flower buds and to change the color of its leaves from green in time for Christmas, it must be kept in complete darkness for 16 hours per day. The witholding of light prevents the plant from producing chlorophyll which is what makes plant parts green. This changes the bracts to red, pink, or white, depending on the variety of poinsettia.

So, somewhere around September 21—right around the fall equinox—pull your poinsettia out of its sunny window and move it into 16 hours of uninterrupted darkness (put the plant under a box if necessary to provide total darkness), alternating with 8 hours of bright light every day.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the dark period, the plant cannot receive even the slightest bit of light at any time. This applies to your year-old poinsettia as well: If you want your plant to produce flower buds again and to change color, it’s the daily length of complete darkness, not bright daylight that matters most. Discontinue this around Thanksgiving.

Another Christmas tradition: O Christmas Tree, Don’t Fall Off my SUV

After Thanksgiving, keep your poinsettia in bright light or the full sun of a sunny window, not keeping the potting soil moist or adding excess water but watering it when the well-drained soil is dry to the touch. Poinsettias prefer temperatures around or above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. They will bloom from Christmas until about April—at this point, it’s a good idea to cut your poinsettia down to a 3- to 8-inch stem and let it regrow starting the process over again until the next year.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are Poinsettias poisonous to pets and children?

One common urban legend about poinsettias is that they’re toxic to people and animals. One Ohio State University study showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat over 1 pound of poinsettia leaves—between 500 and 600 leaves—for toxicity to become a problem. However, they certainly don’t taste very good and the child who ate them would probably get a terrible tummy ache long before they were poisoned.

The milky sap of the poinsettia is another matter. Most members of the Euphorbia family have toxic sap but the toxin in poinsettias is very mild. However, those with sensitive skin should avoid touching poinsettia sap, just in case.

Worth Pondering…

Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities in the world.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do You Really Know A Christmas Carol?

A story of redemption and self-discovery

Like many Christmas traditions and trappings, a fresh look at them may return luster to a dullness that can build up over time. In fact, from a cultural perspective, such an exercise is part of the whole purpose of Christmas and the approaching New Year.

It’s a time to consider ourselves in a new light and appreciation our blessings. Serving as a means to accomplish this is a story that stands as largely unfamiliar although many claim otherwise: Charles Dickens’s 1843 masterpiece, A Christmas Carol.

The Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is a story that everyone knows yet few remember for what it truly is: a tale that sings out like a caroler pounding at the door on the night before Christmas. Its purpose is to awaken us to the reality of our life journey and the need to love one another along our way.

A Christmas Carol is a ghost story in which Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable old sinner and tightfisted financier, is haunted on Christmas Eve by his business partner, Jacob Marley, who’s been dead as a doornail for seven years. Scrooge learns from Marley that torments await him in the afterlife for his misspent time.

The Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To sidestep the terrible path that Marley’s ghost treads, Scrooge accepts visitations from three spirits who come to offer him reclamation. They show Scrooge how his misery is self-inflicted and how much happiness he stands to gain by simply making others happy.

From his boyhood memories to his own chilling deathbed, the spirits lead  Scrooge on a difficult, merry, and disturbing journey through time and space to prove to him the profound purpose of every human life—one most clearly seen in the humane light of Christmas.

The Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As it turns out, Ebenezer Scrooge has proven a soothsayer of our times, for by and large, Christmas actually is something of a humbug these days. It preaches peace but breeds pressure. The ritual of Walmart has replaced the ritual of the wassail. Santa Claus is not really St. Nicholas. The holidays are not really holy days. Christmas is a lost and long-forgotten mystery in need of a great awakening which is the thundering message of Charles Dickens’s carol.

For this reason, A Christmas Carol is an important voice at Christmas, and unlike the customary Christmas fare, it is anything but warm and fuzzy.

The Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is nothing warm about the infernal furnaces that stir Jacob Marley’s hair, or the heartbroken young Scrooge abandoned by his father at boarding school over the holidays, or the cold corpse of Tiny Tim surrounded by his family, or the frozen corpse of Ebenezer Scrooge himself alone and unloved with nightshirt and blankets torn away by his cackling charwoman to be sold in a greasy bone shop.

There is nothing fuzzy about neighborly charity or a changed heart—of which this book boasts along with its horrors. And it is at Christmas that people should face these realities for what they are.

The Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Christmas “is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices,” remind the two gentlemen collecting for the poor in Scrooge’s money-changing hole. And the heartbreaking happiness of Christmas resounds in their words bringing in the dawn of Christmas be they as cold as Scrooge or as warm as his nephew.

His nephew salutes the season “as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time … in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

The Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There could hardly be a more beautiful or unique expression of the Christmas spirit and we shouldn’t forget it for that distinction alone.

Scrooge’s self-discovery and desire to retract his selfishness is the fruit of the Christmas season. With Scrooge, all can realize a need to purge before answering The Ghost of Christmas’s booming call, “Come in! and know me better man,” and discover the men and women sharing this earth with us, be they lame or blind. And in the words of Tiny Tim, remember the one “who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.”

The Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The remarkable power of this story is that it is about everyone, awakening memories of who we are and why we are. But to live the lesson of examination and transformation presented by Dickens is a lofty test. We can share the journey with Ebenezer Scrooge by moving away from the “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” into a larger world as we helplessly face eternity.

A Christmas Carol is a song of preparation, passage, and praise. It is indeed a Christmas carol, and the process it initiates is not an easy one. But as the ghostly mentors of Scrooge held up a mirror to him, so too must we face our own pasts, presents, and futures.

Many, hearkening to this call, swear to lead a changed life that will honor the spirit of Christmas and try to keep it all the year by living in the past, the present, and the future.

Let the spirits come. Let them wake us from slumber. A Christmas Carol prepares us not only for Christmas Day but also for every day: for Life, in all its ups and downs. And may it inspire every one of us to cry, “God bless us every one!”

Worth Pondering…

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Fort Langley: The Fort, Charming Village, and Movie Set

Being in this fairytale town is like being the main character in a cozy romantic comedy

I’m not, nor have I ever been, a Gilmore Girls fan but the one thing that always stuck with me was the cozy village vibes where the girls lived. Something about it—the cordial neighbors, the movie-set appearance of the store-fronts, the small-town charm. Mmmmm yes, warm me up in that blanket.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located an hour’s drive east of Vancouver, Fort Langley is that blanket. This is the place! Not literally, of course—Gilmore Girls was filmed in Burbank—but it has that same feeling like you’re walking around a movie set. It has antique shops and ice cream and a restaurant in an old cabin and an excellent book store on the corner of an old building that, again, feels like a movie set. Then, walk a few minutes east of there and you have the original settlement of Fort Langley, a national historic site reminiscent of another movie set, The Witch, with (I assume) far less horror. 

Fort Langley National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best of all are the parks bordering the village including Derby Reach which includes an easy hiking trail that takes about an hour to complete ending up at an old farmhouse and barn, if you’re into that kinda thing. 

Tracing its origins to the beginning of settling British Columbia, Fort Langley was a trading and military outpost, one of the Hudson Bay’s fur trading posts. Additionally, it also acted as a gateway to the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush in 1858.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is one of the oldest settlements in British Columbia—even before Vancouver itself. If you take a stroll in the Fort Langley community, it is very different from the ruggedness of just a few generations prior.

Easily accessible via the Trans-Canada Highway and Glover Road, today Fort Langley is a popular tourism attraction destination that continuously draws visitors from around the world.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Langley’s historic area is home to the Langley Centennial Museum, Fort Langley Community Hall, CN Station, and many beautifully restored vintage buildings that are rich in heritage and value.

The commercial and retail area of Fort Langley is referred to as the village by area residents. Both residents and visitors alike are attracted to its selection of high-end boutiques and quaint shops. Art galleries, bistros and brew-tasting houses, vintage antique shops, restaurants and cafes are all a part of what draws in daily tourists, shoppers and explorers.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Countless recreational activities are available in and around Fort Langley. From parks and camping to the Fort-to-Fort Trail, from golf courses to rowing on the Fraser River, from the outdoor pool to festivals, Fort Langley is an ideal place for outdoor enthusiasts. Festivals and events are held year-round in Fort Langley including the popular Cranberry Festival, Food Truck Festival, May Day Parade, Canada Day, Jazz & Arts Festival, Fort International Film Festival, and Fort Beer & Food Festival just to name a few.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Langley’s beautiful streets, artfully appointed boutiques and charming, village-like atmosphere seem to have been tailor-made for a feel-good romance tale or festive comedy caper. That’s why many producers of made-for-TV features return to Langley, year after year.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Part of Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas line-up, Five More Minutes: Moments Like These is a romantic movie set against the backdrop of the holiday season. Directed by Kevin Fair, the film revolves around a young widow whose Christmas wish unexpectedly comes true. Kaitlyn relocates to Los Angeles with her young son Adam in hopes of a new beginning after losing her husband unexpectedly one Christmas Eve. As a single mother, Kaitlyn worries about her son, Adam, who is becoming more reclusive and wishes he could have just five more minutes with his dad.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kaitlyn meets Matthew, a contractor and their feelings for one another begin to grow. The film ticks all the boxes of being the perfect heartwarming Christmas film with kids, families, and the holiday spirit. Additionally, the settings and backdrop elevate the festive spirit of Christmas, a colorful time that heals your heart and brings people closer.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Five More Minutes: Moments Like These was filmed in and around Fort Langley. The region is well known for its dynamic culture and active way of life which add to the holiday and festive feel of the holiday movie. The film’s story is set during winter while filming took place in October 2022. The crew had to create artificial snow in different ways like snow blankets, fire retardant foams, and other techniques. To film interior and outdoor sequences against suitable backdrops, it appears that the cast and crew traveled around the village.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Several other Christmas movies including A Kindhearted Christmas, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, The Nine Lives of Christmas, Christmas Getaway, When Christmas Was Young, Christmas Bridesmaid, and others, have also been shot in Fort Langley because of its beautiful neighborhood.

It may be cheesy and it may have totally tanked at the box office but there’s just something about I’ll Be Home for Christmas that brings that ’90s magic during the holidays. In case you missed it, I’ll Be Home for Christmas follows a California college student named Jake who winds up stranded in the desert a few days before Christmas. When everything seems to go wrong, Jake embarks on a cross-country road trip trying to make it home in time for Christmas. Especially since winning his father’s 1957 Porsche is on the line.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Production took place all over Metro Vancouver including Fort Langley, Port Coquitlam, and North Vancouver which stood in for the towns Jake travels through. Filming for the Santa Claus marathon scene was shot in Fort Langley. Fort Langley truly captures the Christmas spirit making the township one of the best places to shoot a holiday film.

Fraser River at Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Talking about it, Erinn Kredba, Executive Director at Tourism Langley, said, “Made-for-TV holiday movies herald the start of the festive season for many people. For me personally, it’s always exciting to spot Township-based businesses in these films. With our beautiful backdrops and charming businesses, including farms, restaurants and wineries, it feels like Langley was made for the movies!”

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kredba added, “We wanted to create a fun way for people to feel like they’re in a holiday movie by visiting these spots during this festive time of year.”  She added, “Our hope is that by visiting some of the locations where these feel-good holiday movies have been featured, it will ignite the holiday spirit.”

Worth Pondering…

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.

—Henry Miller

Ditch the Air Travel Chaos! Road Trip this Holiday Season

This year, many people are choosing to avoid flying and hit the road for the holidays instead

What do Cousin Eddie from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and over 15 million Americans have in common? They are all planning to spend the holidays in their RV. With the projected number of RVers on the road during winter breaks, it’s clear the trend is on the rise.

According to the RV Industry Association (RVIA), 29 percent of Millennials and 20 percent of Gen Z will spend some time from Thanksgiving through New Year in the comfort of an RV. If you’re one of the 15 million Americans planning to avoid travel chaos during this time of year by hitting the open road in a motorhome, travel of fifth wheel trailer, van, camper, or converted bus you’re making a great choice.

The holiday season sees airports notoriously packed with stressed-out travelers. Meanwhile, RV parks and campgrounds remain relatively quiet. So, why not leave behind the airlines and travel in style in an RV? There are many reasons to ditch traditional holiday travel and enjoy a road trip.

Christmas in an RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Flexible travel plans

Traveling in an RV provides more leeway for planning a trip. Drivers don’t have to be committed to being in specific places at specific times like you do when flying.

Spend time with family and friends

For people working around the holidays taking a few days off for a local road trip is less stressful than planning an elaborate vacation far away from home. It may not be what your family has always done but it might be a fun opportunity to start a new tradition and make special memories.

“Spending time with friends and family is an integral part of the holidays and we know that whether RVing together for a holiday vacation or traveling in your RV for a holiday visit, spending time with friends and family is a primary reason people are going RVing this holiday season,” said RVIA Executive Vice President James Ashurst.

RVing with Fido © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bring what you want

Are you worried about leaving the dog at home? Bring Fido along. Have food allergies? Make food in the RV. Spending Christmas break in a recreational vehicle gives people space to enjoy their environment and have creature comforts while surrounded by the magic of this special time of year.

Camping at Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Less expensive

Camping at a state park, national park, or RV park is less expensive than a traditional trip where you’d pay for airfare, hotels, and rental cars. On average, an RV vacation costs 50 percent less than a trip requiring airfare and hotel rooms.

According to a study commissioned by Go RVing and RVIA, there are cost savings of 21-64 percent for a four-person travel party while a two-person travel party saves 8-53 percent depending on factors such as the type of RV and type of vacation.

Hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enjoy the great outdoors

Who says the holidays are just for staying indoors and being all cozy? Whether you’re hitting the slopes or taking a hike in nature, getting some exercise while enjoying the company of friends and family is a great way to spend your free time.

Shopping La Petite Gourmet Shoppe in La Grande, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Support the economy

RV travel and the outdoor recreation industry have exploded contributing $862 billion to the U.S. economy along with 4.5 million jobs, according to the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA).

“These two studies demonstrate that the RV industry and its customers are vital contributors to America’s economy and all indications are that they will continue to be so,” said RVIA Executive Vice President James Ashurst. “Growth in the industry is being increasingly driven by younger and more diverse RV buyers whose purchases are largely motivated by the desire to experience the great outdoors.”

When surrounded by nature, it’s hard not to relax and appreciate the simple things in life. It is easy to see why millions of people are choosing to road trip during this magical time of year.

Golfing Sky Mountain Golf Course in Hurricane, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make new traditions

All in all, the pros of RV travel and road-tripping far outweigh the cons. In today’s hurried world, more and more people realize that taking the time to slow down and enjoy the ride is priceless. So, this holiday season, ditch the frantic airport lines and opt for a leisurely road trip— skiing, hiking, or visiting friends and family instead.

Best winter road trips for the holidays

If you are in the mood for a road trip to end the year, continue reading for some of the best spots to travel to for your holiday road trip.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, Arizona

While desert landscapes may not provide a winter wonderland experience, Phoenix knows how to do the holidays right with its famous Tumbleweed Tree tradition, a lighting ceremony, and Christmas parade. Before or after enjoying it, take a road trip to the Grand Canyon where there’s a good chance you’ll see at least a dusting of snow with the South Rim sitting at about 6,800 feet in elevation bringing lots of picture-perfect photo-ops without the crowds. And, during the holidays you can ride the Polar Express Train from Williams to the South Rim.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Austin to Big Bend National Park, Texas

This is one of those drives where the journey is as interesting as your destination. Driving from Austin to Big Bend National Park is 435 miles, a leisurely two-to-three day adventure with time for stops along the way.

You can have two totally different road trips from Austin to Big Bend National Park. If you move west on I-10, you can directly drive from Austin to Big Bend without many stops in between whereas the alternative route which cuts through Highway 90 is a lot more interesting thanks to the number of stops you have in between. If you take the second route, you could choose to stop at Del Rio for food and fuel and make a pit stop at Langtry to visit the Judge Roy Bean Museum.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

Camp near Asheville and take a road trip north or south on the Blue Ridge Parkway to soak up spectacular mountain scenery that can be even more beautiful during the winter. It’s all about the journey so go slow and stop frequently. Before or after heading out you’ll be able to enjoy Asheville’s sparkling holiday light displays and decor and a visit to the Châteauesque-style mansion known as Biltmore Estate, the country’s largest privately-owned home. It’s worth touring any time of year but at Christmas the evening candlelight tour features over 50 Christmas trees.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

St. Augustine, Florida to Savannah, Georgia

Winter transforms beautiful St. Augustine, Florida, America’s oldest city, into a stunning spectacle of lights. Its magnificent Spanish architecture is lit up with over three million individual bulbs and there will be horse-drawn carriage rides to view them all. Afterward, take off for Savannah to enjoy the Boats on Parade with more than 40 lighted vessels parading both sides of the waterfront accompanied by live music, a tree lighting ceremony, and fireworks. Or enjoy an old-fashioned celebration with Christmas on the River with local entertainment, music, and seasonal treats.

Mount Washington Resort at Bretton Woods, New Hampshite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Burlington, Vermont to Jackson, New Hampshire

The drive from Burlington, Vermont to Jackson, New Hampshire is gorgeous, traveling through the White Mountains with its red covered bridges surrounded by a dazzling winter wonderland. Stop in Bretton Woods to take advantage of Mount Washington Resort’s downhill runs, sleigh rides, ice skating, or tubing before continuing to one of the country’s most picturesque Christmas towns, Jackson. Here you can enjoy all sorts of snow sports and the Annual Journey to the North Pole train ride, complete with Santa and his elves.

Worth Pondering…

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.

—Norman Vincent Peale

The Magnificent History of the Maligned and Misunderstood Fruitcake

We all know what a fruitcake is, or at least we think we do

The simple holiday fruitcake has been to outer space, served as the world’s first energy bar, and is an international $100 million business. However, despite all of these achievements, this ancient Roman dessert is still the target of countless jokes.

Fruitcake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The polarizing dessert that people love to hate became a Christmas mainstay thanks, in part, to the U.S. Postal Service. An estimated 3 billion packages will circulate through the postal service and delivery companies this holiday season. Somewhere among them is a 50-year-old fruitcake from Otsego County, New York.

Nothing says Christmas quite like a fruitcake—or, at the very least, a fruitcake joke. In a 1985 monologue, “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson quipped: “The worst gift is fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world and people keep sending it to each other.”

It’s certainly earned its reputation for longevity.

Fruitcake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

True to Carson’s word, Phyllis Eggler and Jeanne Schuyler have been exchanging the same fruitcake since the late 1960s. The Egglers and the Schuylers were both newlywed couples living on different floors of the same home on Valleyview Street in Oneonta.

“He was very cheap,” Eggler said of their landlord. Eggler said the fruitcake gift inspired a prank.

“My husband and I rewrapped it as a joke,” she said. “That got it started.”

“The next year, we sent it back to them,” Schuyler said. “We’d just go along with it.”

Fruitcake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eggler and Schuyler, now in their 80s and widowed, still talk on the phone regularly and have no plans to give up the tradition. “It’s just a little fruitcake, but we’ve had lots of laughs over it,” Eggler said.

Mail-order fruitcakes became a popular holiday tradition in the early 20th century due to their enduring shelf life. Traditional recipes call for soaking a loaf in liqueur or brandy and coating it in powdered sugar, both of which are thought to inhibit mold.

Fruitcake is known to stay fresh for an inordinate amount of time.

Fruitcake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2017 Antarctic conservators came upon a specimen that tests the limits of the treat: a 106-year-old cake, found in one of Antarctica’s first buildings. This particular cake is believed to have been brought over in 1910 during the Terra NovaExpedition to the South Pole, led by British Royal Navy officer Robert Falcon Scott. According to the Antarctic Heritage Trust, “it has been documented that Scott took this particular brand of cake with him at that time.”

But the honor for the oldest known existing fruitcake goes to one that was baked in 1878 when Rutherford B. Hayes was president of the United States.

Fruitcake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Every year Freida Ford whipped up a fruitcake that would age for a year before being served the following holiday season. After making a cake in 1878, the 65-year-old matriarch died before it could be eaten. When the holidays arrived, the family no longer regarded her handiwork as food. They saw it as a legacy. Now it’s being kept in tribute to Ford’s great-grandson, Morgan, who was its biggest champion until his passing in 2013.

What’s amazing about these old fruitcakes is that people have tasted them and lived, meaning they are still edible after all these years.

The combination of sugar, low moisture ingredients (dried nuts, dried fruit, and “candied” fruit or peel) and some high-proof spirits make fruitcakes some of the longest-lasting foods in the world.

Fruitcake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fruitcake’s great, great, grandfather is the Roman Satura. The ancient Romans were looking for a way to sustain their troops in battle and developed a bread consisting of pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, raisins, barley mash, and honeyed wine. This cake was packed with calories and lasted long enough to fortify a soldier through an epic and exhausting campaign.

As dried fruits became more readily available, this Roman warrior energy bar eventually made its way off the battlefields and into homes as a dessert for special occasions. When Rome fell, local variations on the fruitcake emerged including Italy’s dense, sweet-and-spicy panaforte (literally, “strong bread”) and panettone, Germany’s stollen, a tapered loaf coated with melted butter and powdered sugar that’s more bread-like in consistency, and Britain’s plum pudding

Then, during the sugar boom of the 16th century the fruitcake, that we know today, began to emerge in Europe. Increasing amounts of fruit began to be preserved by soaking the fruit in inexpensive sugar from the colonies.

Fruitcake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The modern fruitcake was created as a way to deal with the abundance of sugar-laced fruit and, by the early 19th century, the typical recipe was full of citrus peel, pineapples, plums, dates, pears, and cherries. By the late 1800s, the fruitcake was gifted in decorative tins, becoming a holiday staple with Christmas and fruitcake becoming intertwined in Victorian England with the help of colonial sugar.

The British adaptation of the Roman Satura recipe, plum porridge, was influenced by the sugar trade and the traditional meat in the porridge was replaced with the readily available sugar preserved fruit. During Christmas in the 19th century, it was traditional for English nobles to feed poor carolers with a slice of plum pudding and the Christmas carol, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” made begging for this figgy pudding famous.

Fruitcake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The fruitcake becomes part of American history thanks to the very first first lady, Martha Washington, who made it for friends and family. So did another American icon, Emily Dickinson. The beloved poet made sure to bake fruitcake for everyone on her Christmas list. For a recluse and an introvert, she had a lot of friends. Her recipe for black cake, so called because it is brandy-rich, thick, dense, and dark with raisins, prunes, and dates—serves 60.

Before long, most cuisines had some sort of fruited breads or cakes that were early versions of the modern fruitcake. Fruitcakes are different in Europe than they are in America. European fruitcakes are more like the medieval fruited bread than the versions made in Great Britain and the United States. The two most common styles of fruitcake in Europe are the stollen and panettone.

Fruitcake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

British and American versions are much more cakelike. Fruitcakes came to America with the European colonists, and the rising tide of emigration from Britain to New England closely mirrored an influx of cheap sugar from the Caribbean.

Sugar was the key to preserving fruit for use across the seasons. One of the favorite methods of preserving fruit was to “candy” it. Candied fruit, sometimes known as crystallized fruit, is fruit that’s been cut into small pieces, boiled in sugar syrup, tossed in granulated sugar and allowed to dry.

Thanks to this technique, colonists were able to keep fruit from the summer harvest to use in their Christmas confections and fruitcakes became one of the most popular seasonal desserts.

Fruitcakes were also popular due to their legendary shelf life, which, in an era before mechanical refrigeration, was extremely desirable.

Fruitcake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best fruit cakes are matured—or “seasoned” in fruitcake lingo—for at least three months before they are cut. Seasoning not only improves the flavor of the fruitcake but it makes it easier to slice.

Seasoning a fruitcake involves soaking cheesecloth in brandy, bourbon, whiskey, rum or other liquor and then wrapping it around the cooked, cooled fruitcake and storing, or simply brushing the cake with an alcohol of your choice and wrap tightly and letting it sit in a cool, dark place.

Credit for the fruitcake’s popularity in America should at least partially go to the U.S. Post Office.

Fruitcake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The institution of Rural Free Delivery in 1896 and the addition of the Parcel Post service in 1913 caused an explosion of mail-order foods in America. Overnight, once rare delicacies were a mere mail-order envelope away for people anywhere who could afford them.

Worth Pondering…

Friends are the fruitcake of life—some nutty, some soaked in alcohol, some sweet.

—Jon Ronson

2022 Holiday Gift Guide for RVers

Everything you need for the RVer on your list

Big celebrations start with the little things

When you travel in an RV, receiving gifts can go from being fun to being stressful quite quickly. This is because RVs are such tiny living spaces that finding places to put new things can be nearly impossible.

Many traditional gifts are fun things that aren’t necessarily needed by RVers. RVers often end up getting rid of a number of the gifts they receive during the holiday season. This isn’t particularly fun for the gift receiver. The gift-giver would surely be upset to find this out. Therefore, it’s best to avoid the problem altogether.

Christmas in a motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A list of the best holiday gift ideas for RVers

Fortunately, some gifts won’t end up in the donation bin. If you aren’t sure what kinds of things to get the RVer in your life, try the holiday gift ideas in my list below.

Consumable gifts

Consumables are great gift ideas because they get used up meaning they won’t take up space for long but are still used and appreciated. There are the typical consumables such as food gifts and bath and body products but the items below are even more useful to RVers who may have allergies or don’t have access to a bathtub anyway.

Christmas craft © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Roll of quarters

This one might seem a bit odd but honestly it’s the perfect stocking stuffer for the person who uses laundromats on a regular basis. After all, quarters aren’t always easy to come by and having a roll put away for when you need them can be a lifesaver.

2. Gift cards

Gift cards are always one of the top gift ideas. Give the gift of a great meal by picking up a restaurant card or snag one for a favorite ice cream or coffee chain. Walmart, Camping World, and Amazon cards are also useful when an RVer needs to make a repair or upgrade.

3. Fuel gift cards

Consider getting your RVing friend a Flying J/Pilot or Love’s gift card they can use to buy diesel or gas fuel, propane, or pay for dump station fees.

Christmas display © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Venture wipes

Those who spend a lot of time boondocking know what it’s like to go a few days without a shower. Help make the boondocker in your life more comfortable by providing them with Venture Wipes to clean up with between showers. These all-natural travel wipes use natural ingredients like aloe, vitamin E, and tea tree oil. They easily wipe off dirt and grime giving you a clean feeling.

5. Rainbow sticks

These are tons of fun for camping families. Simply throw your rainbow stick in the campfire and watch the flames change colors before your eyes.

Christmas in a motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Practical gifts

Practical gifts are always appreciated. They may not seem super fun but they will get used and the fact that they make life a little easier is sure to get you bonus points. Besides, some of these things are fun to receive if you choose a special color or print.

6. Multi-tool

Tools always come in handy while on the road. What better way to save space than with a well-made multi-tool? The Leatherman Skeletool Multi-Tool is a perfect example of this.

Christmas on Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Flashlight

You never can have too many flashlights that work. You never know when you’re going to need to peer into a dark cabinet, under the rig, or walk to the bathhouse late at night.

8. Instant Pot

Many RVers rave about the RV instant pot. The Instant Pot Dual Duo Plus 9-in-1 electric pressure cooker can do a wide variety of jobs. It can cook entire meals quickly using only one pot and is a breeze to clean up. It offers five customizable Smart Programs for pressure cooking ribs, soups, beans, rice, poultry, yogurt, and desserts.

Christmas craft © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Backpack

Exploring the world requires carrying some things around meaning a good backpack is necessary. An ideal backpack for RVers is lightweight, versatile, easy to clean, and packs things in quite nicely.

10. Ice maker

When freezer space is at a premium, ice trays aren’t necessarily going to fit very well. Besides, ice trays don’t hold a lot and refilling them can be a pain. An electric ice making machine sits on a counter and will ensure your RVing friend has ice anytime they need it and give them back their freezer space.

Christmas in a motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Over-the-sink cutting board

RVs rarely have enough counter space. Fortunately, over-the-sink cutting boards create a bit of extra space for the cooking enthusiast. Best of all, some cutting boards also includes a tiny built-in colander, so you can rinse as you chop.

12. Folding step stool  

A step stool is a super practical gift for an RV owner making it easier to get in and out of the RV and to interior cupboards. A folding step stool is great because it collapses to easily store in the RV when it’s not being used.

Christmas cake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Folding wagon

From laundry to chairs, you never know what you might need to lug around the campground. You could of course carry it all, but a collapsible folding wagon makes things much easier by allowing you to pull items from one place to the next. Best of all, it folds down making it easy to store.

14. Hammock

There is nothing quite as relaxing as spending an afternoon in a hammock in the great outdoors. Give your RVing friend the gift of relaxation by placing a small, yet strong, hammock under the tree this year.

Christmas goodies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Journals and photo memory books

Most people who enjoy traveling also enjoy journaling about their adventures and showing off photos of the places they have explored. Give a gift of a high-end journal or photo book and a nice pen to record their memories.

Experiential gifts

Finally, there is the option of an experience gift. These gifts are great because they don’t take up any room at all besides a slot in a wallet. They are also tons of fun to receive and help the recipient make memories that’ll last a lifetime.

Christmas in a motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

16. Event tickets

Tickets to a sports event, concert, festival, or other events might be just the thing to make your RVer happy without overwhelming them with physical things that take up space. Just make sure you know where they will be and when so you know they can make it to the event you have in mind.

17. Reciprocal museum membership

Another option is a membership of some sort. Since RVers aren’t typically in one place for long periods of time, many of them like having museum memberships that offer reciprocal benefits at other similar museums.

Below are some of the reciprocal programs available:

  • North American Reciprocal Museum Association
  • The Association of Science and Technology Centers
  • Association of Zoos and Aquariums
  • Association of Children’s Museums
  • American Horticultural Society
  • Time Travelers (reciprocal membership network for historical museums, sites, and societies throughout the US)
Christmas cake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

18. Theme park annual pass

Perfect for the thrill-seeking traveler, many theme parks have an annual pass option that includes benefits at multiple parks across the country. These annual passes are great gift ideas. Below is a list of some of the more popular multi-park passes out there:

  • Merlin Pass (LEGOLAND Parks and Discovery Centers, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museums, and Sea Life Aquariums)
  • Six Flags Gold Pass
  • Cedar Point Platinum Pass
  • Herschend Pass (Silver Dollar City, Dollywood, Stone Mountain Park, and more)

While they don’t offer reciprocal benefits, annual passes to parks such as Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando are popular with RVers who spend the winter in Florida.

Christmas in a motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

19. Camping club membership

Yet another card you could get for your RVing friend is a camping club membership. There are dozens of camping clubs out there and all of them offer a different collection of benefits. A few favorites are listed below:

  • Thousand Trails
  • Passport America
  • Escapees
  • Harvest Hosts
  • Boondockers Welcome

20. America the Beautiful pass

An America the Beautiful pass will offer your RVing friends free entrance access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. This includes National Parks, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, National Memorials, National Historic Sites, National Wildlife Refuges, National Forests, and Bureau of Land Management.

Poinsettias for Christmas Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

21. State recreation passes

The majority of RVers enjoy exploring and camping on public land. Consider buying them a pass that allows them to recreate in a specific state. A majority of states require a day pass to enter their state park system; some even provide a discount on overnight camping.

Between all of these ideas, you’re sure to find something for your RVing friends. 

Worth Pondering…

Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.

—Dave Barry, Christmas Shopping: A Survivor’s Guide

The Best Gifts for People who’d Rather Be Camping Right Now

Even when the temperatures dip below freezing, camping enthusiasts love any excuse to stock up on new gear

For those whose loved ones need a more minimalist, clutter-free holiday (RVers or not) finding thoughtful gifts that require minimal space can be problematic. When shopping for gifts for RVers, remember the number one criterion, be conscious of space. When you live in an RV you focus on traveling with functional items that don’t take up much room.

Christmas in an RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The perfect gift for the RVers should pass the following test:

  • Makes good use of limited storage space
  • Light in weight
  • Easy to clean
  • Durable for an outdoor on-the-move lifestyle
  • BONUS points if it’s multi-functional

With those points in mind, below is a gift guide of 14 practical gifts for RVers that they didn’t know they needed.

Christmas in an RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gifts for RVers that take up little or no space

Many gizmos and gadgets are useful to RVing, and gift cards are always a good stand-by, but I have compiled some ideas to help stoke your creative gifting fires.

1. Yummy food items

If you’re sure of any food restrictions, giving a gift of homemade goodies is always a lovely way to celebrate the holidays. Include a recipe in your gift so your friends can enjoy your gift again in the future.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Events or experiences

Tickets to a concert/game/exhibit, a walking tour in a city they will be traveling to, a flight-seeing tour over a scenic area, a hot air balloon ride, cosmic bowling, and a horseback ride. The possibilities are limitless!

3. Service subscriptions

Many online streaming services like Hulu Plus, Rdio, and Netflixcan provide a year’s worth of enjoyment without clutter. Other ideas could be an RV detailing service or AAA membership.

Christmas in an RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Lessons or workshops

If your loved one is looking to expand their experiences, they may be interested in a series of lessons to learn to play a musical instrument, speak a new language, polish their photography skills, or learn to make pottery.

5. Reciprocal museum membership

Since RVers aren’t typically in one place for long periods, many of them like having museum memberships that offer reciprocal benefits at other similar museums.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Below are some of the reciprocal programs available:

  • North American Reciprocal Museum Association
  • The Association of Science and Technology Centers
  • Association of Zoos and Aquariums
  • Association of Children’s Museums
  • American Horticultural Society
  • Time Travelers (reciprocal membership network for historical museums, sites, and societies throughout the US)
Christmas in an RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Journals and photo memory books

Most people who enjoy traveling also enjoy journaling about their adventures and showing off photos of the places they have explored. Give a gift of a high-end journal or photo book and a nice pen to record their memories.

7. Handcrafted nomadic gifts

Give your beloved RVer a gift made by another RVer and help support other nomads who are making a living while on the road.

Christmas on Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Camp chairs

There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting around a campfire in the middle of nowhere but it’s a little hard to do that if you don’t have anything to sit on. Folding camp chairs make great gifts for RVers. They’re compact, comfortable, and can be taken anywhere. 

Christmas at Blue Bell Creameries, Brenham, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Hammock

Hammocks would make a fun gift idea for an RVer to bring some comfiness to their outdoor space when they stop to camp. They can just keep the hammock in the RV and when they get that epic campsite they can set up a cozy reading or napping nook in the trees.

10. National parks pass

A National Parks pass would be awesome for RVerss. The annual pass costs $80 and gives access to all sites managed by the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation for an entire year.

Christmas crafts at Kentucky Artisan Center, Berea, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. First aid kit

No one should leave home without a first aid kit especially when they’re going on an extended adventure. This is why first aid kits are a necessity in every RV. First aid kits include the essentials such as bandaids, antiseptic wipes, gloves, swabs, scissors, iodine pads, and an emergency blanket. Some first aid kits come with a first aid guide.

12. Insulated wine glasses

Enjoy chilled beverages in insulated stainless steel wine tumblers. The double-wall vacuum-insulated thermal design is perfect for keeping drinks warm or cold longer so they aren’t just for wine. Use them for hot drinks in winter and cold drinks in summer.

Christmas display Boyds Bears, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Reversible mat

Much of the RV experience is spent relaxing outside the rig, perhaps under an awning but certainly on the ground alongside the RV. A mat that can be used to provide some underfoot protection goes a long way toward making the experience that much more comfortable.

13. Folding step stool

Whether you’re 5 feet 2 inches or 6 feet 2 inches, a step stool is handy accessory to have on an RV. They help you reach higher storage areas and can provide an extra step up into your rig.

Christmas at Log House Craft Gallery, Berea, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Multi-tool

Give a gift of fixing power with a multi-tool including pull-out knives, screwdrivers, scissors, bottle opener, and pliers from top brands like Leatherman, Victorinox, Gerber, and Outbound. Multi-tools come in handy in all situations so it’s never a bad idea for RVers to have one—even just to open a bottle of wine in a pinch.

Worth Pondering…

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!

―Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas