With Christmas just a few days away, I thought it would be fun to do a little post about how different Christmas was back in the pioneer days.
It's no secret that one of my most loved shows and books are The Little House on the Prairie, and I even have a few pioneer books around the house, all about the way of life, crafts, recipes etc.
So exactly how was Christmas celebrated back then?
Living in the Old West was no easy thing, for one the way of life was extremely hard and exhausting, but it also meant being far from a more civilized life with stores laden with Christmas decorations, cards etc. For the pioneers, Christmas meant homemade gifts and a very simple homemade meal.
A blizzard or winter storm, could easily bring everything to a stand still
"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. " - Laura Ingalls Wilder
Some of the items you may see on the Christmas table would be preserved foods, roast beef, turkey, ham, potatoes, pickles, white bread, fruitcakes, cookies, pies. Women would often start the baking for the holidays with weeks in advance, especially when it came to fruit cakes or the ever popular plum pudding.
Decorating the house and the tree, meant using whatever they had on hand, from making wreaths using greenery around their homes, pine cones, holly and berries and whatever else they could get their hands on.
A popcorn garland was a very common decoration for the tree, and I've done it myself many years, just because it makes it look simple but homey. Other types of decorations included hand made dolls using yarn or husks, cookie dough ornaments, gingerbread.
Not all homes had a tree though, in some areas there were no trees available, and other homes were so small that a Christmas tree was just not possible.
For us, we have endless gifts at our disposal, and the amount of money we spend on Christmas every year, is quite exorbitant compared to how the pioneers went about theirs.
Many of their homemade gifts were simple, we saw that in The Little House on the Prairie, and quite honestly I think those are the best gifts to receive. Anything from lavender filled sachets, to wooden toys, shirts, blankets, knitted scarves and hats, mittens and even socks. Preparing for Christmas began many months before because to be able to get all these gifts made, time was needed, and time was something they didn't have much of with their days so filled with exhausting chores around the homestead.
Christmas Eve was spent around the Christmas tree, enjoying each other's company. Christmas day meant going to church service, singing carols with friends around town, enjoy a traditional Christmas meal at home with friends and family and enjoying time spent together.
I hope you enjoyed taking a tiny glimpse at what Christmas was like in those times, if anything it helps me appreciate what we have today, but on the other hand it makes me wish that things were still that simple and that focused on family.
However you decide to celebrate your holidays, make sure that you don't lose sight of what matters the most, those special moments with our family around us. It's not about the amount of gifts or how expensive, or how many decorations we have or how amazing our homes look....for me, I'm choosing to really concentrate on what matters this year, it's been a crazy one for us and as it comes to an end, I want to not only acknowledge what we've been through, but focus on having a much better one next year, one more simple, more traditional, more concentrated on going back to basics. :)