At the holidays, it seems we all get nostalgic for Christmas in the country… whether we grew up on a farm, or not. The very great irony of that is this: Many who yearn for what they perceive to be a simpler time, a gentler holiday, would never be able to keep up with the pace of Christmas on the farm, decades ago.
Women of today who shop for the holiday feast at a grocery the size of a football field would break into hives if transported back to the 1920s. Baked goods were baked at home; preserves were home-canned from homegrown fruit; candies and confections were handmade.
Men who use a mouse to shop for game systems for their kids would have taken a different tack 80 or 90 years ago. Store-bought toys were the exception, not the rule. In the weeks leading to the holiday, fathers routinely spent long evenings sequestered in the workshop, covertly crafting hand-built toys for their children.
Nearly everything for the celebration, in fact, was homemade. Costumes for the Sunday school pageant, many of the decorations, food, gifts and festive finery were all the product of the farm family's hands. A tree and boughs of greenery were gathered in the woods, barnyard turkeys and geese were sized up for the platter, and entertainment - caroling, skating and sleigh rides - was strictly home-grown.
As the credit card ad would conclude, old time celebrations on the farm were priceless. "The Christmas we used to have on Paradise Farm, when I was in knee-pants and only knee-high to a grasshopper, had a lot to it," writes Robert Coffin, author of Mainstays of Maine. "An amazing lot. And the beauty of it was that about all the ingredients that went into our Christmas were homemade. We raised them all right there on the farm."
This is the time of year when we yearn for holidays most of us never knew - those in which no batteries were required, when generations gathered 'round the piano because the TV had not yet been invented, when jigsaw puzzles and board games and sleigh rides represented big fun. It's a dream, to be sure, but dreams are free, and at this time year, they're particularly sweet. Happy holidays from all of us at Farm Collector!
Leslie McManus, Editor