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Christmastime in Montana

Holiday Book Shows History of Christmas in Montana

front cover: Christmastimein Montana

A new book from the Montana Historical Society Press reveals how Montanans overcame the hardships of climate, economic depressions, and wars to rejoice on a sacred day.

Christmastime in Montana is a collection of reminiscences, newspaper articles and editorials, poems, menus, and images that span two centuries of Montana Christmas history and tradition. It includes memories of early prospectors, ranchers, and homesteaders; tales of communities coming together in celebration; stories of children eagerly crowding around Santa Claus; and accounts of charitable citizens working to ensure that nobody went without.

The book is illustrated with 74 historic images from the Montana Historical Society’s Photograph Archives, Museum, and Library.

Dave Walter, Society historian and celebrated Montana history author, compiled the collection from the Society’s archives. He places each entry in historical context with informative introductions.

Walter explains how the holiday reveals Montana’s past: "However removed we were-and are-from the American mainstream, Montanans have always found a way to create a feast, or to gather for a community observance, or to treasure the meaning of Christmas Day."

The book is divided into six chapters that correspond with periods in Montana’s history: "1810s-1850s, Exploration and Fur Trade"; "1860s-1870s, Gold Discoveries and Settlement"; "1880s-1900s, Statehood and Industrialization"; "1910s-1930s, Agriculture and Tough Times"; "1940s-1960s, War and Recovery"; and "1970s-present, Montana and the New West."

"This book is a way for Montanans to connect to the state’s past," according to Society Director of Publications Clark Whitehorn.

Articles range from "Granville Stuart’s First Christmas in Montana, 1857" to "Plentywood’s First Christmas Tree Celebration, 1909"; from "Christmas in a Railroad Graders’ Camp in Glendive, 1882" to "Glasgow Santa Service, 2001"; and from "Stanford’s Toy Hospital, 1932" to "Red Lodge Christmas Pageant, 1984."

Whitehorn suggests, "We each have our own special memories of gathering for a family dinner or attending a community event. These traditions and celebrations have subtly shaped Montana history."

Christmastime in Montana is 264 pages including 74 illustrations and an introduction. It sells in paperback for $15.95 at bookstores, or can be ordered directly from the Society plus shipping by calling toll-free 1-800-243-9900.