Little Christmas on the Prairie
As a kid, I love the Little House books. I was enchanted by Laura and Mary’s life and thought it would be wonderful to live it. I was disbelieving when my dad told me that they were poor. To prove his point, he referenced their Christmas gifts and asked me if I would be thrilled enough about a pair of mittens to remember them for the rest of my life. Ever since then, I have marveled at the abundance we indulge in at Christmas time. I was also made aware of the lack of appreciation we have for items that we need. We expect to automatically have the conveniences and comforts of life, gift-giving is for the luxuries and the fanciful.
Rather than walking you through the Ingalls’ Christmas celebrations, I would like to list the gifts recorded and the recipient’s response to them. In contrast, think about the stereotypical mountain of gifts we exchange and the way we joke about kids being bored with them by the next day. Does an abundance of stuff make the holidays sweeter or more memorable?
Big Woods – all the cousins received stockings with bright red mittens and peppermint sticks. They were “so happy they could hardly speak at first” and looked with shining eyes
Big Woods – Laura received a rag doll that she mentions again in later books. She was the “happiest of all” and “could not say a word.”
Big Woods – Ma received a wooden bracket made by Pa and it was “admired by all.” Pa and Uncle Peter got mittens, Ma got an apple stuck with cloves, and Aunt Eliza received a needle book.
Prairie – Mary and Laura’s stockings held tin cups, candy , a heart-shaped cake, and a penny. It was “almost too much,” they were “too happy to speak,” Laura jumped and shouted and laughed, Mary looked with shining eyes.
Prairie – Mr. Edwards brought Ma and Pa nine sweet potatoes, which Pa said was, “too much.”
Farmer Boy – Almanzo received candy, mittens, an orange, dried figs, a jackknife with four blades, and a boughten cap. He yelled, had not even hoped for such a cap, and examined it closely. In response to his knife, he yelled and yelled, snapped all the blades, and showed it to his siblings. He “thought no boy had ever had a better Christmas.”
Farmer Boy – Almanzo’s sisters received an item of jewelry, lace collars, and black lace mitts. His brother got a silk muffler and a fine leather wallet.
Plum Creek – Laura and Mary’s stockings held six pieces of candy, which were “too beautiful to eat. They made a button string for Carrie, who squealed, grabbed it, and laughed with joy. The crowning moment of this Christmas was the new horses in the barn, a gift to the entire family. (Remember, they were used for farming and transportation, not just leisure.)
Silver Lake – Laura notes that, “Every Christmas is better than the Christmas before.”
Silver Lake – Pa admires his warm knitted socks and silk necktie made from scraps. Ma models her apron made from calico curtains and the handkerchief. Mary’s bed shoes made from a worn blanket are admired by all. Ma gave Mrs. Boast her best Sunday handkerchief and the wristlets she knitted for Pa went to Mr. Boast instead. Laura received an apron to match Ma’s and the Boasts brought candy for the girls.
Silver Lake – Carrie has new mittens from varying shades of left-over yarn; she greets them, shouting “My Fourth of July mittens!” Grace’s gift was a lovely swan’s down cape and hood, which she touches and laughs.
Long Winter – Carrie loves her cross-stitched, cardboard picture frame and the Sunday school card in it. Mary saves the lace Laura knitted for her college attire, Pa declared that his suspenders were so fine he’d never want to cover them up. Ma received an embroidered carboard hair receiver. Grace couldn’t get enough of her two wooden acrobats and their funny antics.
Long Winter – “O what a lovely Christmas,” Carrie sighed. Laura thought so, too.