Christmas to these pioneers was celebrated much the same as today, with family and friends, except they didn't have huge malls and toy stores to visit. Their gifts to each other were home made, and some would take weeks to make. The children's toys were made by the parents and grandparents. Dolls for the girls were made of cloth, with button eyes, yarn hair, the body and head stuffed with what was available. Stitches outlined other facial features. Their clothes were made from scraps of other projects. Sleds and wagons were carved and put together in secret for that happy day. Money was scarce, so these toys were made of available material, parents’ skills and imagination.
As Christmas drew closer, the men and boys, sometimes the entire family went out into the woods to search for that perfect tree. These excursions could take all day, so sometimes a picnic lunch was packed along on the pack mule that would bring the absolutely best Christmas tree home. When one was found they all agreed was the most beautiful ever, it was chopped down and hauled home, to be set up in this cabin in the wilderness. Decorations also were homemade. Popcorn was strung, pine cones and such used for ornaments. Sometimes, some of the families had ornaments for the trees handed down from another lifetime. These few hand blown glass ornaments may have come from Europe, carefully packed and carried, when their grandparents, great grandparents came to this new country. These were very precious, as they represented not only the family, but Christmas past that had happened in other places and other times. The children made the other ornaments for the tree. If paper was available, they would cut stars, snowmen, paper rings to decorate. Each year was the most beautiful tree ever, because the items changed as the availability changed, the special glass ornaments always had a place of honor on the tree. These were reminders of how far the family had come.
On Christmas morning the children would charge to the tree to see what Santa had brought. There were squeals of glee as the dolls, sled, and wagons were discovered. The grownups presents were just as precious, as they were hand made, too. Perhaps dad had a new shirt, made from the finest, softest deerskin, carefully tanned, cut and put together with loving care. Mom may have gotten a new rocking chair, carefully carved for hours upon hours, and kept hidden in the barn until that day, to be placed near the fireplace for her. In this chair she could rest from the days work, rock a baby to sleep with a lullaby, or hold a sick child to comfort.
Then the bustle would begin for the day. Dad and the boys had gone hunting. There was a wild turkey to be cooked, pies from the fruit of their own trees brought so carefully to this wilderness place. Bread to be baked in the fireplace.
Then, family members making the trip from their homes to this home for the occasion, bringing their own contributions to the feast, and the musical instruments to add to the singing. The excitement of love shared that day would help to make up for hardships suffered during the past year. For a while these pioneer families could relax and forget their everyday problems. They could remember and talk of the Christmases of their childhood, the Christmases yet to come, when they are old, and their grandchildren are sharing this day with them.
Submitted By Ethel Taylor
June 9, 2004
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