Home Economics Editor Genevieve A. Callahan encouraged readers to put their pioneer spirit to work that Christmas

G.A.C.,  – August 22, 2004

If you by any chance have been announcing with an air of smug superiority or patient martyrdom (one is as bad as the other!) “I tell the children we just aren’t going to do a thing about Christmas this year,” do, I beg you, read the book, “A Lantern in Her Hand,” by Bess Streeter Aldrich.

Said Abbie Deal, pioneer Nebraska wife, in December of the year of the grasshoppers, “I think every mother owes it to her children to give them happy times at Christmas. They’ll remember them all their lives. I even think it will make better men and women of them.”

And so, weary though she was at night from long hours of back-breaking labor with the most primitive, meager equipment, she would get the children to bed early and then bring out the Christmas things and work at them by candle light.

From the barn she got clean husks and made a family of dolls for Margaret. She made the bodies, heads and limbs from the husks and braided the corn-silk for hair. Will built a small bedstead for them. With her paints, she marked off a checkerboard for Mack, and Will whittled checkers from the circumference of some small cottonwood branches. She ran tallow in tiny molds for the candles. She made a little batch of molasses candy and baked cookies in star and diamond shapes. She boiled eggs and painted faces on them and made little calico bonnets for them …

“When at last the children slept, Will brought in the little cedar tree. The morning found it trimmed with popcorn and tallow candles. And a marvelous flock of butterflies had settled upon it. Their bodies were of dried apples dipped in sugar and their antennae were pink and feathery, looking surprisingly as though they had once adorned Regina Deal’s bonnet. Will had constructed a monstrous hobby-horse for the children, the body and head of cottonwood chunks, real horse’s hair for mane and tail, reins and a bit in the steed’s cut-out mouth. The wooden horse of Troy never looked so large …

“Historians say, ‘The winter of ‘seventy-four to ‘seventy-five was a time of deep depression.’ But to three children on the prairie it was a time of glamour.”


Let’s make this holiday of 1932 a time of glamour and sweet remembrance! Let’s give and share and do for others with the same zest and eagerness that fired those pioneer women of the prairies a few short years ago. Not merely for our immediate families and intimate friends, but for as wide a circle as possible, let’s make it a truly merry time. That is the kind of Christmas we are wishing for you.