How did other pioneer families celebrate Christmas? Further reading gave me some clues:
"In the pioneer days, the home was decorated with green branches and homemade decorations. They did not have a big Christmas tree because there was no room for a large tree in their small homes. Pine cones, nuts, berries and popcorn chains were hung on the tree. Figures or dolls out of straw or yarn were made. Cookie dough ornaments and gingerbread men were also hung on the tree.The Christmas dinner was planned and preparation of the food began weeks ahead of time. The Christmas goose was fattened up and the plum pudding was left to age in the pot until Christmas day. There were chores that began months before Christmas - such as making the gifts for the family members ( corn husk dolls, sachets, carved wooden toys, pillows, footstools and embroidered hankies ). Scarves, hats, mitts and socks had to be knitted. Girls were able to knit before they were six years old. Boys would make boxes for presents. If there had been a good harvest that year, presents were placed inside stockings. The stockings were hung on the fireplace. Cookies and fruit might also be found in the stockings.Christmas Eve was a night for singing carols and telling stories around the fireplace Christmas Day the whole family attended church and returned home to a Christmas meal. Then it was time to visit friends and neighbors".
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.
"Christmas for many in the Old West was a difficult time. For those on the prairies, they were often barraged with terrible blizzards and savage December winds. For mountain men, forced away from their mining activities long before Christmas, in fear of the blinding winter storms and freezing cold, the holidays were often meager. But, to these strong pioneers, Christmas would not be forgotten, be it ever so humble.
Determined to bring the spirit of Christmas alive on the American frontier, soldiers could be heard caroling at their remote outposts, the smell of venison roasting over an open hearth wafted upon the winds of the open prairie, and these hardy pioneers looked forward to the chance to forget their hard everyday lives to focus on the holiday."Sources:
Basalt Regional Heritage Society