The third story in The Farmer’s Wife series How We Keep Christmas demonstrates how much friends and neighbors meant to rural folks. Mrs. Melby of North Dakota shares how three families gathered together each year on Christmas Eve to celebrate the holiday. The festivities included a program put on by the children, a humble gift exchange, bags of candy, nuts, and apples, and a jingling sleigh ride home.
Neighbors Are Family
WE ARE Three neighbors, the Wall family (a large family of grown-up sons and daughters and younger children) the Elvrum family, and the Albertson family (whose children are all younger than eighteen). Our farm homes are about a quarter of a mile apart. We celebrate Christmas together by turns. One year we are all invited to the Elvrum’s, next year to Wall’s, then to Albertsons’.
Every year we have a program which is the children’s delight. For weeks before we have been learning to recite the “piece” that mother found for us. For several Sunday afternoons, we met to practice singing our songs. We know the good old Yule-time songs word for word. Every little tot has her song or verse to say and it is the proudest time of her young life to say it well.
When the longed-for Christmas Eve comes, we have supper early and dress in our very best “brand new dress for Christmas.” We are bundled off into the sleigh. The sleigh bells are not forgotten, we must have their music as we glide over the new-fallen snow, the bells keeping time with our happy hearts.
Arrived at our friends, in happy confusion we lay off our wraps and rush to the Christmas tree! More beautiful than ever! More wonderful each year!
Then we have our program, the little folks a bit more nervous than they had expected to be and glad when it’s over. In our programs, we always have more about the Babe in the Manger and less about Santa and the reindeer.
Then come the toys, the dolls and the presents, a new hair ribbon, a pretty apron and many things we’ve longed for. It all seems so good. Then we get our bags of candy and nuts and all the apples we can eat and some to take home. The fathers and mothers too get gifts of value, presents unlooked for and, happy in the generosity of each other, we go home in the evening having a kindlier, neighborly feeling for all fellowmen. –Mrs. Bertha Melby, North Dakota
The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, December 1922, Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.