Christmas in Rock Springs
About this time every year we would begin preparing for Navajo Christmas. This was a tradition McCormicks had observed almost since the very first years of their arrival in Rock Springs. For many years the community had been pretty low on the economic scale and most of the children had very little in the way of Christmas, so Navajo Christmas was designed to provide each one who came with a Christmas gift of some kind. The mission also provided a traditional Christmas Dinner. There was a traditional Christmas church service and the dinner and finally gifts were distributed to everyone. Even after the population became more affluent the tradition continued, I’m not sure when it was discontinued-probably about the time sister McCormick became ill.
All of the workers loved this time of year even though it was a lot of work. Congregations from all over the country would send boxes and cartons of Christmas gifts. These were new items ranging from baby items to toys and clothes for the children to toilet items and clothes for the adults. The donations were stored in every corner of the buildings until time to prepare the gift bags.
McCormicks would plan a major shopping trip for the meal items, sometimes a couple. We would begin baking cookies the first of December and pack them in plastic sealed cartons for use on Christmas. Of course that was about the only thing that could be prepared far in advance, the turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy and vegetables all had to be done on the Big Day. So every one braced themselves for the big push. Of course during most of the time of preparation we also had the school children with us. I missed a lot of the preparations because I was involved with the school room activities. The kids went home in time for me to get in on a lot of the work though.
I think I said before that the kids were with us until the day before Christmas, but that must not have been right because they were gone by the time we began packing the gifts. Of course in the midst of all the community preparations we also had gifts for the children. The children’s gifts were shopped for individually or if we had seen a new item in one of the donations boxes that was set aside for whichever child one of exclaimed, “Oh, wouldn’t Rita look pretty in this!” or “Look at this truck! John would love it.”
McCormicks divided the children into groups and gave each of the workers who were shopping one group and we were allocated a certain amount of cash to spend on that child, typically there was enough for a couple articles of clothing and some toys usually one large item and two smaller one. For many of our kids these were the primary gifts for their entire Christmas. This was the most fun of the season. Nothing can beat picking out things for kids you love and who you know will not have much else. Just before we took them home or the parents would be arriving we would have a party and give out presents. Once the kids were gone preparations for community Christmas went into full swing.