A PIONEER CHRISTMAS

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The holidays are drawing near. Contemporary Christmas celebrations range from close family gatherings to elaborate parties and celebration events. For the early pioneer family Christmas celebrations were very different.

Two possible social events were all that pioneers attended. The first event was probably a religious celebration in the rural church, which sometimes doubled as the schoolhouse if the town hadn’t had the time to build a church. In the small community near my home the first church was built in 1913, so services were held in homes or the school prior to church construction. This service usually consisted of singing carols and a re-enactment of the Nativity story with children clad in fuzzy bathrobes and a doll as the Christ child. Sometimes a willing new mother could be convinced to allow her new child to act as “Baby” Jesus. After the service, the participants and guests helped themselves to homemade cookies, holiday breads, and, if available, some fruit punch.

The second event was attended by all neighbors and parents in the area. Whether you had children in school or not, you probably attended the one-room school Christmas party. Everyone was entertained by Christmas stories and songs. Each child had a part in the program. Sometimes there would be a play, but mostly the audience was treated to singing. The photo I’ve attached was taken after one such Christmas event. The entire neighborhood was rounded up for a photo after the program. You should note that each child is proudly clutching their Christmas gift—a popcorn ball. In the mountain town of Georgetown, Colorado, the wealthy Hamill family made certain that oranges were brought in to provide a special gift for each child.

Whether historic or modern, holiday celebrations have always included close family and neighbors.

 

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