Early Christmas, Colorado Style

Post (c) by Doris McCraw – writing as Angela Raines


I have a novella coming out on December 8, 2016. It is available for pre-order now. It takes place in my fictional town of Agate Gulch during the Christmas season.:http://amzn.to/2h8HgiS


In honor of that story, I thought I would re-share some of the early Colorado Christmas stories I have found in my research. So here for your enjoyment “Early Colorado Christmas”

Let’s start in what is now the city of Denver. On November 22, 1858 Denver, Colorado was founded. That Christmas records show there were about two hundred men and five women, four of which were married. There were also a few children of various ages. This area was actually composed of two different camps and both were planning festivities. Both were planning meals. One German couple in one camp planned to have a tree with candles, a tradition on their native country, to be shared with others in the camp. The second camp had a meal of buffalo, rabbit, wild turkey with rice pudding, peach and apple pie. To quote one source “That Christmas morning was ‘soft and genial’ as a May-day…”. For others it was a day of partying, thanks Uncle Dick Wootton, who brought the ‘Taos Lightening’.

Another story from those early days is of a family who were living near the Arkansas river, near the cut off to Monarch Pass. In 1863 the family had been working a mining claim when they were cut off due to a heavy snow storm. With plenty of food, their biggest problem was lack of variety. The story is, one of the daughters brought out the good china, brought from Nebraska, and the family sat down to a feast of: mock turkey (made from beef), beans, and coffee made from browned bran. The children served their parents, who were the guest of honor at this celebration.

(c) from authors colection

Even as early as 1842, records show that the Colorado territory had holiday celebrations. The mountain men/trappers in the northern area where Colorado and Utah meet, celebrated with the Indians of the region. Here is the record of the meal these early pioneers had: appalost (lean meat and fat roasted of a low fire on a stick), buffalo cider (liquid found in the buffalo’s stomach), washena (pulverized dried meat and marrow) and pomme blanc (a type of root vegetable, sometimes called a white apple)

By 1888 in Leadville, the meal was larger and much more festive. One advertisement for a local saloon, ‘Dick Berryman’s’ said their Christmas meal would consist of: Possum, turkey, roast pig, sweet potatoes and corn dodgers. Even at 10,152 feet, they knew how to eat and celebrate. This is especially telling, for winters at this altitude were brutal, such as the storms of 1885. It took some hardy people to stay there.

Most people loved the beauty of Colorado in winter. It can be a varied as sun on the plains and snowstorms in the mountains. Isabella Bird from her book on her trip in the 1870s commented “I think I never saw such a brilliant atmosphere. That curious phenomena called frost-fall was occurring in which, whatever moisture may exist in the air, somehow aggregates into feather and fern leaves, the loveliest of creations, only seen in rarefied air and intense cold. One breath and they vanish. The air was filled with diamond sparks quite intangible. They seemed just glitter and no more. It was still and cloudless, and the shapes of violet mountains were softened by a veil of the tenderest blue.”

Wishing each and everyone a wonderful Christmas.

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted five days a week at – http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com and has now passed one thousand haiku and photos posted on this blog. Check out her other work or like her Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL




21 thoughts on “Early Christmas, Colorado Style

  1. Interesting again! Some of those foods you mentioned might appeal if I were starving! But, I bet they all had some sort of nutritional benefit to folks without much variety in their diet–even the buffalo cider!! Probably more so than a McDonald’s burger. Folks naturally need celebrations to raise their spirits and celebrate something greater than themselves I believe. And the less they have to do it with, the more resourceful and creative they become I bet. And with all the work that went into those feasts, bet they were doubly enjoyed. Enjoyed your post very much.


    1. Neva, I think that is one of the things that keeps me returning to the stories of the early pioneers, their tenacity. I realize that what they endured became their normal, but how they made their normal something so special. I am so happy that you enjoyed this post. Their stories are so special to me. Doris


  2. Such an interesting post, Doris! I especially liked the ingenuity of the family whose children served them and they ate the same things they always had, but put in a different context they were “celebrating.” I’m sure people in Colorado in the early days must have had a time finding enough to eat, period, let alone come up with something new for the holidays. Enjoyed this post very much. Merry Christmas to you too!


    1. Linda, these people were special, at least in my mind. I am so grateful that the stories were handed/written down. Somehow it brings them closer. I agree, they showed such ingenuity in making their lives mean something.

      Thank you for commenting and I’m thrilled you enjoyed the post. Thank you also for the holiday wishes. It means a lot. Doris


  3. Wonderful post, Doris! I am always amazed at the tenacity of the pioneers and how they “made due” and still made a celebration! I love the quote from Isabella Bird — she certainly sets the setting! Thank you for sharing this festive histories with us! May you also have a very Merry Christmas!


    1. Gayle, I’m glad I excavated the stories. I think having a context for our own lives, makes their and our lives special. If you get the chance, the Isabella Bird book, “A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains” is a great read. Here’s a link to the Rocky Mountain Park’s write up of this lady: https://www.nps.gov/romo/isabella_bird_visit.htm

      Merry Christmas to you, and those who are dear to you. Doris


    1. Abbie, may it be a pleasant one for you also. I do enjoy finding and sharing these ‘personal’ stories. They tell so much about the people during that time. Doris

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fascinating, since I love reading about food. I don’t think I’d like to eat possum but corn dodgers sound good to me (maybe because they sound like corn dogs). Thanks for the culinary history post, Doris. Have a great holiday season!


    1. Sarah, The corn dodgers sounded almost edible to me. When I started reading these menus while researching, my stomach did a double take. Glad you enjoyed the ‘offereings’. Thanks and you have a great holiday also. Doris


  5. I could deal with all of it except maybe that buffalo cider, which sounds downright disgusting. But as someone mentioned earlier, it was probably quite nutritious. Maybe even more than Froot Loops. LOL. But other than the food, I’m grateful for our creature comforts–central heat, and not freezing to the toilet seat. We’re pretty spoiled these days.


    1. Ah Jacquie, I thought you might enjoy some of this info I agree, the food needed to offer some major nutrition, but the ‘ugg’ factor is a big one for me.
      Like you, I agree, there are some major advantages to living now. Have a great Christmas. Doris


  6. Now that’s a fun post to read… all that Christmas food, most unique to the Colorado region during pioneer times. The first one — 200 men and 5 women, one of which was single — must have been delightful for the women, especially the lone single woman. I imagine she was extremely popular.


    1. Mike, You may be right about the single woman. I do know it turned into quite the party with Uncle Dick’s gift. The food gave me more than a moments pause, but the idea that you could find something to celebrate made these stories stick in my mind. I really have tried to imagine what it was like. Doris

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think I’d like it either Cher’ley, but it must have had some redeeming qualities if they drank it.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the stories. As I wrote in one of the responses above, I’ve tried to understand what they went through back then. Let me tell you, I’m pretty glad I live now. Merry Christmas. Doris


    1. Stephen, I think we seem to be programed for tradition. It seems to help ‘ground’ us. Glad you enjoyed the post. I find history and people fascinating. Doris


  7. Thanks for sharing. Yes the fact that there were only 5 women in Denver way back then is fascinating. While some of the foods they enjoyed seem rather awful, some might have been quite tasty. I loved the story about the kids that made Christmas special for their parents.


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