In this issue
Be a Part of History!
"Christmas On The Frontier"
Fort Laramie National Historic Site will glow with the holiday spirit. The lighting of the historic buildings will begin on the evening of December 13th with an evening Open House and the annual Fort Laramie Historical Association Bookstore sale.
In December of 1875, the following appeared in a newspaper column in the Cheyenne Daily Leader, "Good old Christmas was fitly celebrated in Fort Laramie. On Christmas Eve the old Fort, that has withstood so many "bloody" sieges, presented an appearance really magnificent...Every window in the post was brilliantly illuminated with a dozen candles each...". The correspondent may have waxed poetic when it came to the "bloody" sieges, but he well described the magical look of the fort, lit by candles. Window illuminations were a common way of observing the holiday in 19th century America, even on the frontier.
On December 13th, the park will hold its annual Christmas program from 4:00 pm until 8:00 pm.
At 4:45 the Torrington Methodist Church hand bell ringers will perform in the park Visitor Center. At 5:30 the Torrington Fiddler's Association will provide music for park guests followed by Mary Harris-Eshe's program on Victorian Christmas traditions and music. Staff dressed in period clothing will be stationed in the 1874 Cavalry Barracks and the Post Trader's Store to talk with visitors about what Christmases were like on the 19th century frontier.
Visitors can stroll past the historic buildings which will be illuminated and Christmas music will be heard drifting across the parade grounds. Cookies, coffee and hot spiced apple cider will be served in the visitor center.
During this special event and during the entire month of December, the Fort Laramie Historical Association bookstore will hold its annual Christmas sale. Nearly every item in the bookstore and gift shop will be discounted 10% off the regular price sale. Members of the Historical Association will be given an additional 15% discount. This is a great opportunity to purchase those perfect Christmas gifts for friends and family.
All of these special Christmas events are free to the public.
If you would like more information regarding this program or other programs and activities sponsored by Fort Laramie NHS, please contact us at 307-837-2221 or write to Fort Laramie NHS, 965 Gray Rocks Road, Fort Laramie, WY 82212. Fort Laramie NHS is located three miles west of the town of Fort Laramie on State Highway 160.
John K. Davis, writes in his article on Frontier Christmas Celebrations, "By the early and mid-1800s, Christmas had evolved from a minor holiday to the one we would recognize today. In European and American countries, it had become a day of feasting, church going, and gift exchanging (albeit without the commercialization). However, for many pioneers living on the edge of civilization in the Great Plains the celebration of the day was more difficult, due to isolation and the lack of resources around them. Unless someone lived near a grove of pine or fir trees, something rare in the then nearly treeless plains, a true Christmas tree was virtually unkown. Instead, settlers, using frontier enterprise, would choose any type of young sapling to bring home and decorate. Tinsel was white tissue paper, threaded popcorn and/or cranberries tied together. Ornaments were usually homemade cookies, apples and pieces of stick candy. Frequently, people would use personal items, such as a pocket watch or some piece of jewelry, as ornaments. The tree would be topped with a star cut form a tin can or other metal."
Every year Fort Laramie NHS invites an elementary class out to help decorate our Visitor Center Christmas tree with decorations like Mr. Davis describes. They string popcorn and cranberries, decorate cookies, and make an assortment of old-fashioned ornaments. The kids not only thoroughly enjoy themselves, but they learn a little about what life was like during Christmas at the old fort.
If anyone would like to put some old-fashioned ornaments on their tree, you'll find some great ideas in this out-of-print book published in 1902, called New Ideas For Work and Play: What A Girl Can Make and Do. In it, the authors, Lina Beard and Adelia Belle Beard have a whole section on Christmas Decorations. Included is an incredible number of fun projects along with some absolutely charming graphics. Enjoy! And have a very, merry, old-fashioned Christmas!!
Old Bedlam Christmas Ornament
Although not an old-fashioned ornament, this fine metal replica of Old Bedlam will look spectacular on your Christmas tree. It's a 3-1/2" gold-tone, three dimentional ornament with "Fort Laramie National Historic Site" arched above the building and "Old Bedlam" below. It comes in a beautiful gift-box with an image of the ornament embossed on to box top. Get yours today! Great for gift-giving! Sorry, cranberry and popcorn garland not included!