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Christmas traditions on the ranch

Published on 24 November 2021
Locke family

Christmas for the Locke family of J.D. Hudgins Inc. in Hungerford, Texas, always includes a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Coleman Locke writes, “Our family has for many years gathered at our house on Christmas Eve for fun, fellowship, a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Santa and for a delicious beef dinner with all the trimmings. With four children and 12 grandchildren, the group has grown to be quite large over the years. Our family has raised Brahman cattle for well over 100 years, so our yard decorations prominently display Brahmans. Christmas is always a fun time for our family.”

Photo provided by Coleman Locke.

Wine Family

Christmas is the Wine family’s favorite holiday to celebrate. Marion Wine of Wine Cattle Company in Alice, Texas, writes, “Whether it’s due to the added extra family time movie-watching with our young kiddos or baking cookies gathered around the kitchen, the key element to what makes it more special than any other holiday is the remembrance that there is something bigger than us – and though the idea of Santa is magical in and of itself, the fact that baby Jesus was born to the virgin Mary makes Christmas magical even more so. While I can’t put my finger on just one special tradition, we go all out for Christmas and cherish and savor every day during the month of December.”

Photo provided by Marion Wine.

Sydney Wilkinson and family

For Sydney Wilkinson and her family operation, Wilkinson Gelbvieh in Model, Colorado, Christmas means many things. She says, “Of course, I look forward to spending time with my family and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. But for many years, the Christmas holiday has also coincided with getting cattle ready for National Western Stock Show. This means my family spends every bit of time working with our cattle to prepare them for this great show. I cannot tell you how many Christmas Days I’ve spent washing cattle, working hair and/or clipping our show cattle. It is a time our family spends together doing something we truly love. For our operation, the show cattle are not only an added fun component to our operation, but something we truly enjoy doing together. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a string of cattle being pampered in our barn.”

Photo provided by Sydney Wilkinson.

Heather Hays Stinnett

Heather Hays Stinnett of Hays Cattle in Colorado says, “Our best Christmas tradition started when my brother Casey and I were kids. As soon as school was out for Christmas vacation, we went to Grandma’s house, where we would spend the week leading up to Christmas cooking and baking all our family’s favorite treats with Grandma Hoo and Nan (great-grandma). We made everything from fudge and divinity to dish-pan cookies and peanut brittle. To this day, my brother still can’t stand peanut brittle, thanks to all of it that Nan made him stir over the years. It’s my mom and I keeping the tradition going now – and although the oldest of my nieces and nephews are now in college and high school, they still make it home to help. It doesn’t seem to matter the age; everybody looks forward to ‘bake day’ and keeping the tradition alive.”

Photo provided by Heather Hays Stinnett.

Marci WhitehurstProgressive Cattle columnist and Montana rancher Marci Whitehurst says Christmas is “pretty basic” at her home. She writes, “When I asked our kids for their favorite Christmas traditions, they said: ‘Baking, opening one of our gifts on Christmas Eve, movies and board games.’

Then our oldest replied, ‘I hate to break it to you, Mom, but we are pretty basic.’

My heart flopped until she followed it with, ‘I like it that way.’

Really, we are simple folks. We love family time, helping others, Christmas Eve services and laughter. I force my family to watch old, classic Christmas movies. We play board games.

I spend Christmas Eve cooking – we have a big meal that night and then reheat the sides and cook a roast on Christmas Day. That way, we spend some time in the kitchen, but most of our time is spent together.

My favorite memories involve the kids helping me in the kitchen. This picture is one Christmas morning when I made sweet rolls and the kids helped. It was a while ago, but those smiles. It feels like they could jump out of the pictures and hug me, sliming me with sticky fingers. Those moments are simple traditions that warm my heart.”

Photo provided by Marci Whitehurst.

Strickland Ranch

Christmas in the Sunshine State is a little different than most other places, says Jim Strickland of Strickland Ranch and managing partner in Blackbeard’s Ranch in Myakka, Florida. For him, and many other Florida residents, Christmas includes flamingos, key limes and seafood. Christmas is stone crab season, and so stone crabs, raw oysters, shrimp and hush puppies are on the menu. Strickland says Christmas trees can be a combination of traditional and live palm trees, key lime, Meyer lemon or tangerine trees. “Decorate with pink flamingos and plant them around the ranch to remember the past Christmases and pick when needed,” he says.

Photos provided by Jim Strickland.

Rock Solid Gelvieh

At Rock Solid Gelbvieh in Blackfoot, Idaho, Carlos and Trina Christensen say Christmas is a holiday they hold dear in their hearts. Carlos writes, “We are extremely grateful for our Lord and Savior and all that He has blessed our family with. We love to spend time together. We have had a tradition for several years where, on Christmas Eve, we go to the gym and play basketball, volleyball and ride scooters. We then come home and make homemade pizza. Grandpa gives inner tube rides in the snow with the four-wheeler while the pizza cooks. We then have a devotional and share gifts that usually tie into the devotional theme. Family is everything.”

Photos provided by Carlos Christensen.

Scott and April SimsScott and April Sims of Sims Cattle Company in McFadden, Wyoming, started their tradition of the barn lights in 1989. April writes, “Our children, Shanon and Kendra, were 10 and 6 years old. In 2007, Scott lost his younger brother Olin in a tragic accident. Scott then built and added the cross in Olin’s memory to the display. The original multicolored lights were part of another Santa, reindeer, sleigh and elves display Scott’s aunt Loretta put together in the 1950s. Over the years, as the lights quit working, we transitioned to all red lights, as you see in the picture. The barn is visible from Highway 13 in southeast Wyoming, and we hope many people get to enjoy our tradition.”

Photo provided by April Sims.

Paul Marchant

Progressive Cattle columnist and Idaho rancher Paul Marchant writes, “When I was about the age where a kid’s belief and faith in Santa Claus begins to wane due to outside pressures like peer approval and, well … real life, I found myself approaching the outer edges of the ‘He ain’t real’ camp. My parents, perhaps sensing my doubt and subsequent impending departure from childhood innocence, did what they could to bolster my belief in the fat guy and his magic.

“My dad, true to his cowboy ingenuity, broke a couple bales of hay and scattered it in the driveway in what I figured to be about the length of a nine-reindeer hitch. When I left the house in the dark early the next morning as I followed my dad to the milk barn, I noticed the obvious absence of the previous night’s hay, save for a few stems and leaves. Well, if that didn’t prove the existence of a jolly elf and his reindeer team to a farm kid, nothing would – because I knew I’d shut the gate to the calf pen the night before.

“The tradition of a Christmas Eve reindeer feeding has continued on through my children, and now with my grandchildren. The case for the reindeer was strengthened for a few years when we had a pet goat that masqueraded as a dog as she roamed the porch and yard. Before that time, I’d never really noticed how similar the hoofprint of a reindeer was to that of a goat.”  end mark

Photos provided by Paul Marchant.