Gold Miner’s Christmas

When Christmas came during the early Gold Rush years, thousands of predominantly male, mostly young gold-seekers were far away from ordinary comforts and the familiar faces back home. A number of preachers in the gold camps or town saloons offered short holiday services, and some miners dodged the pain of a cold, lonely day by singing old Christmas carols like “Jingle Bells” or “Away in a Manger” around camp fires.  Homesick letters to loved ones expressed longings for East Coast Christmas gatherings replete with turkey, hams and pound cakes. Some indulged in brandy-soaked revelry that left the celebrants with headaches for days afterward.  Many miners ushered in Christmas Day by whooping or firing guns, a short-lived burst that preceded a long, difficult day caulking cabin roofs, or inexpertly mending shirts and socks with calloused fingers.

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