Christmas was much the same in the mid-to-late 1800s as today, in many areas of the U.S. Presents were exchanged, cards were often sent, homes were decorated, stockings hung by the fire for the children and churches gathered to celebrate the birth of Christ.
|Harper's Weekly showing an 1876 Christmas--Photo courtesy of|
Legends of America.
|Miners led a rugged life, living in cramped quarters|
However, Christmas was not forgotten, even in the most rugged of areas. The spirit of Christmas was alive on the American frontier. Soldiers could be heard caroling at their remote outposts, venison roasted over an open hearth, and hardy pioneers looked forward to the chance to forget their hard, everyday lives to focus on the holiday.
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote of the preparations for Christmas on the Kansas Prairie: "Ma was busy all day long, cooking good things for Christmas. She
baked salt-rising bread and r'n'Injun bread, and Swedish crackers, and huge pan of baked beans, with salt pork and molasses. She baked vinegar pies and dried-apple pies, and filled a big jar with cookies, and she let Laura and Mary lick the cake spoon." That very Christmas, Laura Ingalls was delighted to find a shiny new tin cup, a peppermint candy, a heart shaped cake, and a brand new penny in her stocking. For in those days, these four small gifts in her stocking were a wealth of gifts to the young girl.
In the West, probably one of the first Christmas celebrations was held by Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery in the winter of 1805. The expedition had reached the Oregon Coast and was waiting for the warmer spring weather in a small fort they had built. The men celebrated the holiday by firing their rifles and singing. Later, Lewis and Clark gave presents to their men out of the few supplies they had left, handkerchiefs and tobacco.
|Lewis and Clark's Discovery--1805|
The tradition of Santa Claus was popular among children on the frontier as well
Miralee Ferrell is a best-selling, award-winning author with 21 books in print. She lives in the Pacific NW with her husband and loves to hike, ride horses and