The Holiday Season of Early Days

In days gone by, the holidays were celebrated in ways that have gradually been passed down to become our own traditions. It’s uncertain exactly how pioneer traditions in this area were started – circumstances, perhaps. We can only guess. Fortunately, many of those traditions are still with us, like the Christmas stocking now traditionally hung on the fireplace. In earlier years, stockings were likely to have an assortment of nuts, candy, and of course, an orange. One version of how the orange came to be included in the Christmas stocking, is that it represented 3 pieces (some say “balls”, others say “bags”) of gold. Even the smallest of rural schools included rehearsing for parts in a school play or chorus for a Christmas program. A basket dinner often followed the program at the schoolhouse.

No matter that sometimes money was difficult that year, Santa was sure to find a plate left for him at the table. Sometimes it was only a piece of bread and butter and some “dried up ears of corn for the reindeer”.

As more folks settled in the area, the Grange Hall was often a place for the community to gather for a holiday celebration. It was on Christmas night in 1915 after a dance at the North Fork Grange that folks were returning to Florence aboard the Ariel. In the darkness and cold, the Ariel hit a snag in the river, tearing a hole in the boat. Quickly filling with water, Captain Johnson managed to steer the Ariel to shore. Passengers were able to disembark without incident and were grateful to be rescued by a nearby neighbor. Although surrounded by darkness and weary from the night’s celebration, some seem to recall the rescue boat appeared to be navigated by a white bearded fellow in a red jacket and stocking cap?