Little House Christmases

Some of my best childhood memories are related to my parents reading aloud to us in the evening. And our favorite read alouds were The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. (My mom read most of the series but Dad always read Farmer Boy.)

Some of my personal favorite parts of any of the books were the chapters about various Little House Christmases through the years with the Ingalls and Wilder families. Then I started thinking about which were my favorites and I eventually ranked them this way:

My favorite Little House Christmases

favorite little house christmases10. Christmas Horses

This occurs in On the Banks of Plum Creek (which, incidentally, describes three very different Ingalls Christmases). Ma talks with the girls about how much Pa wants horses for Christmas, and that means that will be the only thing the family gets for Christmas. The girls, of course, are self-sacrificing and noble.

Whenever anyone was unselfish, that was Santa Claus.

I, as a child, burned with indignation about it and that feeling still remains. Even though they did end up with six pieces of candy in their stocking. And don’t get me started on that whole, “make a button string for Baby Carrie” thing.

(I’m sure Caroline Ingalls was an admirable woman, and the Little House books don’t tell her whole story, but reading through the series makes me wonder whether I would like her if I knew her in real life.)

9. Pa Eats the Christmas Food

Again, this happens in On the Banks of Plum Creek. A freak snowstorm strands Pa {spoiler} mere steps from his house. Ma and the girls worry. Pa eats the food he had in his pockets that he was bringing from town for Christmas.

No presents, no candy, and their father almost died…

Not a high point in the story for me as a child, even if the book ends on a happy note.

8. Christmas in May

The Long Winter is my least favorite Little House book (because I don’t consider First Four Years a real part of the series) so I considered ranking this last. But the joy the family feels in opening that Christmas barrel (after all the snow melts) is hard to resist.

7. Christmas is Overshadowed by Other Things

Things for the Ingalls family and their fellow townsfolk are so much better in Little Town on the Prairie that Christmas is rather overshadowed by other events (what Laura calls ‘The Whirl of Gaiety’). It’s nice to think that the family is so comfortable Christmas isn’t really the biggest deal.

6. Christmas in the Surveyors’ House

The Ingalls lives are looking up in By the Shores of Silver Lake, after the string of terrible events described by On the Banks of Plum Creek (and a few experiences Laura Ingalls Wilder felt were best left undescribed). They spend a winter in ‘The Surveyors’ House’ which has ample provisions. Their new friends the Boasts help make things merry. And Grace is there to be sweet and cute.

Everyone gets a present, even the unexpected Mr. & Mrs. Boast. And there’s some fun secret keeping like Ma and Laura’s practical but surprising gifts.

5. Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Claus

The weather has turned nasty during this Christmas in Little House on the Prairie. Pa and Ma have asked their friend, Mr. Edwards, to bring the girls’ Christmas treats from town. But it’s looking like he won’t make it. The girls know that if Mr. Edwards can’t make it, Santa Claus can’t make it either. Pa doesn’t have the heart to play his fiddle. (That’s when you know things are bad!)

Ma has the girls hang their stockings anyway. Pa disapproves and tells her so.(“No, Charles, there’s the white sugar…”)

Anyway, spoiler! Mr. Edwards comes through in a big way. And he tells the girls a story about meeting Santa Claus in town, and how Santa asks Mr. Edwards to deliver these particular gifts and if you can read that chapter without getting a lump in your throat, you’re a tough case.

Think of having a cup and a cake and a stick of candy and a penny. There had never been such a Christmas.

4. The Wilders Are Rich

Farmer Boy may be my favorite Little House book, which is a somewhat treasonous opinion in purist Little House circles. But the Wilder family is so admirable and industrious. The dry wit of Almanzo’s father and mother appeals to my anglophile heart.

Depending on what order you read the books, Farmer Boy makes a nice change of pace from the hardships the Ingalls are enduring. And the descriptions of the food, my word. If you plan to read Farmer Boy this winter, lay in a supply of snacks, is all I’m saying.

The exuberance Almanzo and his siblings feel on Christmas morning is truly joyful. And then there are lines like this:

Almanzo tried to be good for so long that he could hardly stand the strain.

I think about the elderly Laura Wilder writing that about her husband and it cracks. me. up.

So, anyway, Christmas finally rolls around for Almanzo. Well, sort of. Almanzo and his siblings wake up at o’dark-thirty in the morning. (An hour and a half before they have to rise – and their usual rising time is PLENTY early, I assure you.)

The Wilder children get multiple nice presents in their stockings. And it’s fun that Almanzo gets nicer presents than his cousin Frank. Because Cousin Frank is a jerk of a kid and I’m petty like that.

3. Laura receives Charlotte

Little House in the Big Woods is my favorite of the early Little House books. Their home seems so warm and cozy, and they live close enough to see family on a fairly regular basis.

Anyway, in this Christmas story, Laura receives her rag doll Charlotte and they spend Christmas with one set of their double-cousins. It’s merry and family centric and Charlotte will be a recurring character on her own.

This book stands so well on its own. I love re-reading it.

2. Almanzo Surprises Laura

These Happy Golden Years is my favorite of the later books. Because, Almanzo and Laura. And falling in love without ever saying the word love.

Anyway, one of the Christmases mentioned in this book is after Almanzo and Laura become engaged. He goes back home to visit his family for months and Laura begins to wonder if he regrets proposing.

She finds out in a snowstorm that {spoiler!} no, he doesn’t. And he doesn’t want to be away from her on Christmas, either. {swoon}

But my favorite Christmas in the Little House Series has to be:

1. The Christmas Tree

Like I said, On the Banks of Plum Creek mentions several Christmases. But the Christmas where the church and Reverend Alden manage a Christmas Tree for the little frontier town of Walnut Grove is truly memorable. (Mary even mentions it as her favorite Christmas when they talk about Christmas in By the Shores of Silver Lake.)

Laura receives a little fur cape AND a muff that she wished for, but it isn’t just that. And it’s not her candy, popcorn ball, mittens, and jewel box, along with the things the rest of the family receives.

It’s the fact that it all seems so magical to her and part of that is that it’s her first experience with a Christmas Tree. It’s a “wishes coming true” type of Christmas that is still moving to read about more than one hundred years later.

little house christmasIf you’re looking for an antidote to the overwhelmed holiday, the materialistic type of holiday, the Little House series is a great prescription. Can you imagine your children being thrilled with a penny and a piece of candy in their stocking? Can you imagine yourself being happy that everyone is just safe, warm, and together?

Actually, I can imagine that last part. Maybe because my parents read these books to me growing up.

Do you have a favorite Christmas from The Little House series?

P.S. If your children are still a bit young for the entire series, there are some lovely picture book versions:

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  1. David Pitman says

    Some of my favorite memories are of you listening to us read.

  2. I never quite realized how many Christmases we get to experience with the Ingalls. But I think my ranking would be pretty much the same with the exception of number 2. But my set growing up didn’t have that book so I’ve only read it once, maybe twice, whereas I ant count how many times I read the others. I need to remedy that.

    And I like Farmer Boy best too ;-)