The History of Christmas in Wyoming
It's hard to believe, but Christmas wasn't officially recognized as a national holiday for nearly 100 years after the United States of America was founded.
In 1836, Alabama became the first state to declare December 25 a holiday. Christmas didn't become a federal holiday until 1870. Oddly enough, the state of Oklahoma didn't officially recognize the date until 1907.
Here in Wyoming, Christmas has been officially observed since the territory was first granted statehood in 1890. But a lot has changed since then. Back in those days, there were only two official holidays; Christmas and Independence Day.
How you celebrated Christmas often depended on how close you lived to the railroad. In Cheyenne, well-to-do citizens could purchase gifts and decorations that were shipped by rail from other cities. In the outlying areas, ranchers and homesteaders made their own gifts and decorations. Typically, gifts were smaller and limited to household needs.
Christmas trees also became popular in the late 1800's. Most Wyoming residents would cut down their own trees. However, due to the limited number of evergreen trees in some areas and the difficulty of transporting them, they were often smaller.
In Cheyenne and along the front range, affluent families would decorate their houses with trees that were shipped by rail from Denver. Manufactured ornaments were rare in those days, causing most households to decorate their trees with strings of nuts and dried fruits.
Early Christmas celebrations in Wyoming were community-wide events. In the cities, gatherings would be held in local churches or schools. In smaller towns, several families would often get together to sing carols, recite poetry and dine together.
And yes, Santa was always a popular figure here in the Cowboy State. Although the costumes in those days were far less elaborate, you could usually find someone with a long, white beard.