I spent my first Christmas on the prame in 1907, shortly after I had commenced homesteading [about 35 miles from
Duck Lake, Sask.] At that time I was full enough of enthusiasm to enjoy anything that had a spice of novelty about it. Christmas day I spent at the home of my friend Shepley with three other bachelor guests. It was different from any Christmas I had ever spent before, but not the least enjoyable by any means. We had very little of the usual paraphernalia of Christmas time. There was no Christmas tree, no holly, no mistletoe, and no girls to kiss under it if there had been.
But what really counts at Christmas is a spirit of good will, a good dinner and a good appetite to enjoy it. We had all of these. Shepley had been to town and might have stayed there over the festive season, but he would not disappoint the rest of us, and came back the night before with a pair of nice fat ducks and a plum pudding.
We all contributed something to the bill of fare, and took turns at cooking and sawing wood outside so that all should have appetites appropriate to the occasion. Chicken soup preceded the roast duck, and plum pudding and mince pies followed, and the feeling of sweet content that seemed to steal over us all when we drew around the stove after dinner, made us forget the homesickness which we all no doubt felt, but which no one spoke about.
The second Christmas was different. We had by this time extended our acquaintance considerably, and had discovered that there were some ladies living in the neighborhood after all. We started to celebrate on Christmas Eve, and with two teams and sleighs gathered up a merry party of nearly twenty. We first went to a Doukhobor village, and with one of the ladies of the party dressed as Santa Claus, beard and all, visited each house leaving toys for the children and having a great time generally. Then we went off to another village, where the Catholic members of the party attended service before we returned home in the early hours of the morning.
The festivities were renewed as soon as we had had a few hours' sleep and had done our chores, and the whole neighborhood started on a round of visits which lasted till the New Year. Sometimes a bunch of a dozen or more of us would descend unannounced upon some unsuspecting bachelor just as he was preparing for bed and proceed to make ourselves at home in his shack. In case his pantry should not be well supplied, we always took some eatables along, as well as a few packs of cards and usually some kind of musical instrument.
When traveling on the prairie at night one is apt to get lost, so being careful people we generally waited for daylight and breakfast before dispersing. Those were good times, and no one who has not taken part in the social life of a prairie settlement can understand how enjoyable it can be made.