Christmas was coming.
The little house was almost buried in snow. Great drifts were banked against the walls and windows, and in the morning when Pa opened the door, there was a wall of snow as high as Laura's head. Pa took the shovel and shoveled it away, and then he shoveled a path to the barn, where the horses and the cows were snug and warm in their stalls.
The days were clear and bright. Laura and Mary stood on chairs by the window and looked out across the glittering snow at the glittering trees. Snow was piled all along their bare, dark branches, and it sparkled in the sunshine. Icicles hung from the eaves of the house to the snowbanks, great icicles as large as the top as Laura's arm. They were like glass and full of sharp lights.
Ma was busy all day long, cooking good things for Christmas. She baked salt-rising bread and rye'n'Injun bread, and Swedish crackers, and a huge pan of beaked beans, with salt pork and molasses. She baked vinegar pies and dried-apple pies, and filled a big jar with cookies, and she let Laura and Mary lick the cake spoon.
One morning she boiled molasses and sugar together until they made a thick syrup, and Pa brought in two pans of clean, white snow from outdoors. Laura and Mary each had a pan, and Pa and Ma showed them how to pour the dark syrup in little streams on to the snow.
They made circles, and curlicues, and squiggledy things, and these hardened at once and were candy. Laura and Mary might eat one piece each, but the rest was saved for Christmas Day.

All this was done because Aunt Eliza and Uncle Peter and the cousins, Peter and Alice and Ella, were coming to spend Christmas.
The day before Christmas they came. Laura and Mary heard the gay ringing of sleigh bells, growing louder every moment, and then the big bobsled came out of the woods and drove upto the gate. Aunt Eliza and Uncle Peter and the cousins were in it, all covered up, under blankets and robes and buffalo skins.

Now there were cousins to play with! They played so hard all day that when night came they were too excited to sleep. But they must sleep or Santa Claus would not come. So they hung their stockings by the fireplace -Alice and Ella and Mary and Laura all in one big bed on the floor.
In the morning they all woke up almost at the same moment. They looked at their stockings, and something was in them. Santa Claus had been there. Alice and Ella and Laura in their red flannel nightgowns and Peter in his red flannel nightshirt, all ran shouting to see what he had brought.
In each stocking there was a pair of bright red mittens, and there was a long, flat stick of red-and-white-striped peppermint candy, all beautifully notched along each side.

They were all so happy they could hardly speak at first. They just looked with shiny eyes at those lovely Christmas presents. But Laura was happiest of all. Laura had a rag doll. She was a beautiful doll. She had a face of white cloth with black button eyes. A black pencil had made her eyebrows, and her cheeks and her mouth was red with the ink made from pokeberries. Her hair was black yarn that had been knit and raveled, so that it was curly. She had little red flannel stockings and little black cloth gaiters for shoes, and her dress was pretty pink and blue calico. She was so beautiful that Laura could not say a word. She just held her tight and forgot everything.

Then there was Christmas dinner. Alice and Ella and Peter and Mary and Laura did not say a word at the table, for they knew that children should be seen and not heard. But they did not need to ask for second helpings. Ma and Aunt Eliza kept their plates full and let them eat all the good things they could hold. "Christmas comes but once a year," said Aunt Eliza. Dinner was early because Aunt Eliza, Uncle Peter and the cousins had such a long way to go. So as soon as they had eaten dinner, Uncle Peter and Pa went to put the horses to the sled, while Ma and Aunt Eliza wrapped up the cousins. So they all got in, and Pa tucked the last robe well in around them.
"Good-bye! Good-bye!" they called, and off they went, the horses trotting gaily and the sleigh bells ringing.

In just a little while the merry sound of the bells was gone, and Christmas was over. But what a happy Christmas it had been!

-Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House books and Little House images are copyright by HarperCollins Publishers.

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