A Pause to Celebrate: Holiday Season at Spring Lake Ranch
Rachel Stark, Director of Operations
It’s the holiday season and, like lots of things, it will look different for so many this year. Here at Spring Lake Ranch there will be tweaks and adaptations, but we strive to keep it robust, personal, and merry!
Our community enjoys some well-loved holiday traditions which include Thanksgiving, Chanukah, New Years and Yule. We take these festive occasions pretty seriously (in a fun way) with the intent of making them meaningful and joyful for our residents and clients, many of whom spend the holidays with us – even more so this year due to COVID. On a rotating basis, the staff split up to form committees to make sure each holiday is well planned and special. We confer with the residents on traditions they might like to include to add to our own annual festivities. Although there are some differences year-to-year, here is a peek into what the holidays tend to look like. May it help inspire and keep your spirits lifted during this wintry season!
Thanksgiving is likely my favorite as gratitude is at the forefront of my personal wellness, but also because many residents, clients, families, extra staff, and visitors join us. This year, we couldn’t have visitors due to COVID, but still had a festive 60 guests at our celebration, comprised of residents and staff who live on the Hill. The lowered numbers didn’t dull the import of the day and I think this is the first year every single staff and resident made it to the dinner as well as to the activities leading up to and after the meal. The day started with brunch at Woods Crew Manager Doug’s house. Then came a rousing game of flag football, an open mic and salon by the fire and, the next day, a bagel and crepe brunch at my house on the Hill followed by a Ranch-wide scavenger hunt. We surely know how to celebrate here!
This year, Chanukah came next. About five years ago, we were blessed to have had a talented welder as a resident whose legacy was a beautiful 10 by 6 foot iron menorah. Each year, we place it on the main house lawn and gather at dusk every day of the holiday to light a candle. The festivities are capped off with latkes and games, and the reading of a very “Ranchy” play about the meaning of the holiday. This year, our new transition program Elliot House will host the festivities!
Yule is probably the celebration held most closely in the hearts of our resident’s memories. It’s a celebration of the winter solstice and the light returning; the perfect metaphor for finding hope in the darkness. Each year, Woods Crew hides the yule log somewhere on the property and then places luminaries to light the path leading to it. After a casual dinner of homemade lasagna and copious amounts of garlic bread, we light torches and walk the lit path to the log, gathering around it to sing carols. Meanwhile, a few staff stay back at the main house to rearrange the dining room and string lights so that upon our return the room is lit only by the glow of twinkle lights. Staff and residents are told the meaning of the holiday and invited to share a thought, a poem, a song, or a story. A candle is lit for each contributor and slowly the room, much like our lives, fills with light. It’s magical.
Next comes Christmas. We kick this one off with the “Truck of Cheer,” which is traditionally Farm Crew tooting around in the navy truck, delivering hot chocolate and candy canes to other crews while they work. On Christmas Eve we order Chinese food and then retire to Farm Manager Carl’s house for an evening of decorating the tree and baking monkey bread. In the morning, staff deliver gifts, pastries, coffee, and meds to each resident in their house, giving them a little extra time to lounge in bed or in their pajamas before entering the chilly day. A more elaborate brunch is offered at one of the staff houses later that morning. Before Christmas dinner we hear the story of Christmas and afterwards sing songs in the living room around the piano.
We round off the holiday celebrations with New Years. If there is snow it usually involves some torchlit sledding at the bottom of the Hill as well as a campfire, hot chocolate and s’mores. Often it also includes a game night, a dance, or whatever the residents think will help them ring in the new year and bid farewell to the old. The next day is yet another brunch (we do love our brunches here) followed by a day of relaxation and playing outdoors. For those so inclined there is always some serious football watching!
It’s been an incredibly difficult and strange year but our little haven here on top of the mountain has been blessed, as we are a “household” of 75 and never alone. The holiday season allows us a pause to celebrate and be grateful for the healing that occurs by facing life’s challenges as one community. Whatever it looks like for you, may you have a restful and safe holiday season.