Today behind the Advent calendar door we find Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. But really, most of the Little House books have a wonderful Christmas story included as a chapter in the various novels. This Garth Williams illustration is of Laura on Christmas Day, right after she has received her beloved rag doll, Charlotte.
My favorite Little House Christmas story is, of course, the tale of Mr. Edwards' meeting with Santa Claus in Independence, Missouri. A chapter in Little House on the Prairie, it is frequently anthologized. As a little girl I loved the picture of Santa on "a fine bay horse," leading a pack mule as he crosses the prairie.
Then Santa Claus said: "Have you ever met up, down yonder, with two little young girls named Mary and Laura?"
"I surely am acquainted with them," Mr. Edwards replied.
"It rests heavy on my mind," said Santa Claus. "They are both of them sweet, pretty, good little young things, and I know they are expecting me. I surely do hate to disappoint two good little girls like them. Yet with the water up the way it is, I can't ever make it across the creek. I can figure no way whatsoever to get to their cabin this year. Edwards," Santa said, "would you do me the favor to fetch those girls their gifts this one time?"
"I'll do that, and with perfect pleasure," Mr. Edwards told him. ("Didn't he have his reindeer?" Laura asked. "You know he couldn't," Mary said. "There isn't any snow." Exactly, said Mr. Edwards. Santa Claus traveled with a pack-mule in the southwest.)
Other excellent Little House Christmas stories include Laura's first-ever sight of a real Christmas tree in On the Banks of Plum Creek, Almanzo waking up before 3:00 in the morning to discover a jack-knife in his stocking in Farmer Boy, and the beautiful swan-skin cape and hood made by Ma for little baby Grace, in By the Shores of Silver Lake.
The bottom line is, oh my goodness, you need to read all the Little House books! I've loved them my whole life, and it makes me so happy that the urchins love them too. In fact, I think I'd better go and re-read them all now. Gotta go!