Friday, December 14, 2012

The Old West Celebrates the Holidays: Jacquie Rogers

Yule Brings Celebration For All

The snow blows nearly sideways as it blankets the range. Ranch hands hunker down in their saddles, scarves over their ears and their Stetsons protecting them from the fierce wind. They dream of a warm fire and hot buttered rum. But they have livestock to save from freezing and starvation, so they ride on.

It's Christmas on the open range. Miserable for man and beast. But it isn't just another day at the office, so to speak. They whittle gifts for one another, sing a few carols as they sit around the campfire warming their hands and feet. Cook gives them a hot meal--the finest beans with maybe some meat thrown in. And with a little luck, Cook could scrounge up a few tins of peaches to use for a pie. Life couldn't be better and they thank their lucky stars for a sound horse and solid tack.

(Yes, I know these cattle are a modern breed and very fat, but it's the only picture I could find.)

Ahavath Beth Israel 

Chanukkah in the mines

It's the 1860's in Silver City, Idaho. The Festival of Lights has been celebrated in the West since the beginning of frontier settlement, but not like their counterparts back East who have a warm and dry place to worship with their families. A menorah can be lit anywhere, and the Jewish silver miners do just that. They pray, play a little dreidel, and think a lot of home.

The picture to the left is the oldest continuously used synagogue west of the Mississippi. It's located in Boise, Idaho, and was built in 1896 by the Beth Israel congregation, now called the Ahavath Beth Israel congregation. Very beautiful.

Christmas on the farm

Everyone has chores to do every day and Christmas is no exception. Cows have to be milked, livestock has to be watered and fed, eggs need gathered, and the barnyard will require the usual tidying (to use a gentile term). So after the chores are done, the family can gather together and celebrate Christmas with what meager resources they have. If they don't have evergreen trees to spare, they might decorate a sagebrush with popcorn and berries. They make ornaments with precious bits of paper and scraps of cloth. Peach tins make nice ornaments, too, and they shine in the firelight.

1876 Christmas, Harper's Weekly

Their celebration might be more humble than those in the eastern cities, but they have a grand time, nevertheless. The women cook for days. They're resourceful and whatever they have available will do for a fine pie or stew. The Christmas feast could consist of chicken, venison, or maybe a ham, along with homemade rolls, freshly churned butter, potatoes and gravy, and pies--maybe one made with dried apples and a vinegar pie. Each family member has made modest gifts for the others and even the smallest child has labored over precious gifts--might be a drawing or a doll made of sticks. They sing carols, maybe read the Bible, and if they're close enough to town, they'd most likely go to church if there was one.  If not there'd probably be a worship service at the schoolhouse or maybe a saloon.

For most Christian families, Christmas is a day for family togetherness and to show their love and appreciation for one another, as well as celebrating the religious aspect of the holy day.

Christmas for Outlaws, Gunslingers, and Cyprians

The saloon owner brings small gifts for the working ladies, the bartender, the resident gambler, and a few of the regulars. A few cowpunchers bring gifts for their favorite girl. They might have a nice meal together before they open for business, and even then, the customers are few. It's one night they can relax.

Happy Holidays to Everyone!

My gift to you: send a message to jacquierogers @ (no spaces) and let me know which book you'd like (be sure to tell me what address to use, if different than the one on the email), Faery Merry Christmas or Much Ado About Madams and I'll gift you a free book.  Offer ends 10pm Pacific Time, December 19th.


Ciara Gold said...

Loved your information on the Jewish western celebration. The different traditions are what really make this time of year so special. Thanks for posting such an informative take on historical western Christmases.

Unknown said...

Interesting post, I enjoyed reading it. They were certainly simpler times and most appreciated what little they had. Maybe we all have gone too far over the line of simplicty.

Jacquie Rogers said...

Thanks for stopping by, Ciara. I'm sure the holidays were a whole lot different in the East where they had access to more goods and services. Lots of the pioneers had no relatives in the area at all. I'm sure that colored their celebration.

Jacquie Rogers said...

Right about now, I'd sure enjoy a little simplicity. All the boys have about a thousand toys they just have to have--a far cry from a stick horse or a pistol whittled out of a hunk of firewood. And you know, those homemade gifts seem far more precious.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Jacquie, I loved MUCH ADO ABOUT MAVERICKS. I belienve Ben ties Cole for my favorite of your heroes, and Jake is definitely my favorite heroine of all your books. What a treat to read that book! Each time I think you can't possible surpass your last book, you prove me wrong. Best wishes to you for a wonderful Christmas for you and yours.

Paty Jager said...

Fun post Jacquie!

Jacquie Rogers said...

Thanks so much, Caroline!

I had a battle with my critique group about Jake. They kept demanding she have a flaw. I said that's not the point--the point is she has her act together and knows exactly what she wants. I think it works. I also think there's a difference between a true kick-butt heroine and a beyotch, and I wasn't about to write the latter. With a heroine like Jake, you know poor Ben is in for a ride. It takes a pretty confident man to hold up in that circumstance. :)

Jacquie Rogers said...

Thanks, Paty!

Alan Jones said...

A little late, maybe, for a comment but I couldn't help myself. Your description of Christmas on the Farm pretty well describes the Christmases I knew as a child. We seldom got toys during the year so we really appreciated those few we got at Christmas. Besides, watch the children at birthdays and Christmas. They have more fun playing with the box it came in than the gift itself. So what does that tell us?

I've read all your books listed, Jaquie, and really enjoyed them all.