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Christmas on the Frontier

"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas time."
~Laura Ingalls Wilder

As we reflect on the season at hand, it is striking to consider how our lives have changed so drastically in the past century. Nowhere is the contrast more vivid than at Christmas time. I urge you to take a moment out of your busy holiday season to reflect on the wealth that we have today -- not necessarily wealth in the form of money, but rather in terms of spirit and our ability as a society to accomplish anything that we we dare to dream about.

In the late 1890s, life was very different yet still filled with possibility. Christmas morning was not filled with electronics, gift cards and expensive jewels. On the American frontier, a child was thrilled to receive fresh fruit or sugar-based treats. They enjoyed giving handmade gifts such as woven or knitted clothing items, or even dolls for the youngest members of the family. Christmas was about spending time with family and rejoicing in the belief of a greater spirit as even those of us who do not wholeheartedly follow Christian worship tend to do.

We have progressed away from the basic European Christmas traditions in many aspects -- going above and beyond to impress friends and bring joy to our families. But deep down inside, what really makes the holiday season bright are our kind words to one another and simple gestures of generosity. While children might see Christmas without mountains of toys as a failure, they will soon learn that Christmas without family and loved ones is an even bigger disappointment.

My husband and I were recently out feeding cows and doing other such chores in -30 degree weather, a task I love to help out with on the weekends. We reflected on the old homestead site of Grandfather Kneut and continued to be amazed at the strength of our pioneering forebears to survive such brutality of weather. Yet the Christmas traditions remained and brought such a bright spot to the bleak winters of those homesteading in wood and tar paper shacks on the Northern Plains. And for that we are thankful as we prepare for the big day. May your holiday season remain pure and joyful wherever life finds you and remember to find peace in the simplicity of the holiday.

Merry Christmas.

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