Christmas is a month-long state of mind for me. This festive time of loved ones, parties, gifts, and religious celebrations is so special.
Use the Theme of "Little House on the Prairie" for a Thrifty Christmas
Christmas might be limited if finances are tight. Turn the bleak looking holiday into something special by celebrating it the pioneer way. Get the whole family involved to celebrate Christmas the Little House on the Prairie way. I'll give you some tips on activities to do and gifts to make that will make the season special and fun for the whole family.
Reading the Little House series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder as a child took me to an earlier time. It was a time when life was not easy but the family persevered together to make a warm and happy home on the prairie or in the big woods. Our own family history had some parallels to the book series and my own grandmother actually lived in a sod house in Oklahoma when she was a little girl.
Perhaps your family has a pioneer history and the children can learn about that as well during the time you are preparing for your Little House on the Prairie Christmas.
Read the Story to Prepare for the Holiday
Even if the family is familiar with the stories, it sets the tone to re-read the chapter about Christmas. Have a family read-aloud session and then brainstorm how you can celebrate Christmas like Laura's family did.
The original series of Little House stories are available at all public libraries. Just ask the librarian for them.
In more recent times, some of the stories have been adapted for younger readers with an easier reading level.
The Cover of the First Edition of Wilder's Book
Ma was busy all day long, cooking good things for Christmas.
— Laura Ingalls Wilder
Some of the Foods Made by Ma at Christmas in the Little House Stories
- salt-rising bread and 'Injun bread,'
- Swedish crackers
- a huge pan of baked beans with salt pork and molasses (recipe)
- vinegar pies (check the video that follows for making these) and dried-apple pies
Involve the kids in figuring out what to cook with what is at hand. Remind them that the Ingalls family couldn't get into the car and go to the supermarket for groceries. They had to make do with what they had.
Let them help with the measuring and stirring and other preparations.
Video Instruction for Making Vinegar Pie
Learn More about Pioneer Christmas Times and Customs
Search the internet using the keywords "pioneer Christmas" and you'll find lots of activities and information. Here are a few samples from a search like that:
For example, the kids can "churn" butter using a simple jar and some heavy cream. It takes a while of shaking the jar to get it to turn into butter.
Children love making things, so look for crafts that use supplies that you already have around the house. If your child has a doll, they can make doll clothes for the doll using material from outgrown or ragged/stained clothing. Work with one child making the doll clothes to give to a sibling for their doll as a Christmas gift.
You could melt down some bits and pieces of candles, then let the children create a new candle by dipping a string into the wax. This requires adult supervision to see that no one gets burned on the hot wax.
If you have snow, make up a recipe of taffy (molasses and sugar made into a syrup) then drizzled on fresh snow to harden.
Here's a Marvelous Source of Information
Don't miss a website called Little House on the Prairie which is chock-full of nostalgia about the stories and has recipes and crafts and family activities. You will find plenty to keep the family busy for the month of their Pioneer Christmas.
Cook a Little House Recipe
Plan frugal activities like making gingerbread (no, not making gingerbread houses and not gingerbread men, just plain gingerbread). You can find the recipe for gingerbread in the Laura Ingalls Wilder stories or choose a gingerbread recipe from an online site.
You can cheat a little by getting a box mix from the store, but make sure that the children realize that on the prairie everything had to be made using ingredients you have on hand.
The Great Thing about Cooking with the Kids Is They Learn Life Skills While Having Fun
Visit a Pioneer House
Touring a vintage log cabin gets everyone in the pioneer mindset. They have a chance to see the simple interior and the small rooms and the lack of modern amenities like a bathroom or electricity.
If you live close to any of the Little House historical sites or museums, plan an outing for the family. If there aren't any near where you live, check for a pioneer museum or a log cabin that you could take the family to see.
A Video Tour of the Inside of the Little House on the Prairie in Kansas
A Modern Family That Lives "The Little House" Lifestyle
Pioneer Christmas Tree Decorations
Decorate the Christmas tree with old-fashioned paper chains and foil-covered cardboard stars. Make popcorn and fresh cranberries into chains or make just plain popcorn chains. Make it fun to create the decorations with the whole family gathered around the table. (keep the TV turned off)
Any paper can be used to make a paper chain, it can even have words or pictures. Don't go buy construction paper. The pioneers couldn't do that. They would have used paper that they had on hand. Use pages out of a magazine or use sheets of junk mail cut into strips.
The small yarn dolls (video above) make great ornaments for the Christmas tree.
Take a walk with the children and look for natural things to decorate the Christmas tree. Think of pine cones, acorns, colorful wild berries.
A Rag Doll Made by My Mother (Based on her memories of one she had in the 1930s)
My Mother's Instructions for Making a Rag Doll
She had such fond memories of her rag doll from her childhood, that she made one for each of her daughters and for the grandchildren too.
Gail Lee Martin's Prairie Doll Made of Rags
There Are Many Different Crafts That Children Can Make for Gifts
Plan to make Christmas presents for each other. Help the children make a rag doll for a gift. See the link for instructions for a prairie rag doll.
Use blocks of wood and simple paints to make miniature houses to place under the holiday tree. Put down newspaper over the work area in case anyone spills or drips paint.
Each child could make a book for a sibling. Use plain paper and cut out photos from magazines to paste on the paper. Then they write a story to accompany the pictures. If you don't have glue, you can make some flour and water paste. Let them choose the pictures, create the storyline, hand letter it onto the pages, and they might need your help to staple or tie the pages into book form.
Finding time to work with each child might be the hard part. Keeping the gifts secret adds extra suspense to the holiday gift exchange.
Let the Children Dress Up in Pioneer Outfits
Pioneer families entertained themselves on long winter nights by making music. Have a family songfest singing all the Christmas carols you know.
They also read together by the fireside. Read from favorite Christmas stories, the Bible or from the Little House books. My mother remembers during her 1930s childhood in the Kansas Flint Hills, they would all gather around the table in the evening while her parents took turns reading stories aloud to their children by the light of an oil lamp.
Minimize the amount of TV time, which was definitely not available in the time of the Little House stories. That also cuts down on the number of toy advertisements the children see. These create a desire for toys that the family might not be able to afford and often don't need.
You Can Sing Christmas Songs Even Without a Piano - Youtube with Words and Music
Fill the stockings with pioneer-era luxuries (hard candy, nuts, an orange). Instead of fancy, decorated Christmas stockings, hang real socks up for an old-fashioned touch.
Find More Ideas Online
In browsing around, I found that others were intrigued by the idea of a Little House on the Prairie Christmas recreated now in their home. Check out this one which has some great ideas.
Perhaps you'd like to make pancakes just like they did in pioneer times. I found a page for that and it has a recipe.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Virginia Allain