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'Christmas In Nevada' Documents Longtime Yuletide Traditions In Silver State

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University of Nevada Press

"Christmas in Nevada" chronicles the melting pot of traditions people in Nevada use to celebrate the holidays.

Jingle bells, piney smells or spiked egg nog – whatever it is that puts you in the holiday spirit, you’re probably not the only one.

Whether you’re religious or not - Christmas traditions have brought families together for generations. Nevada is no different. As people migrated west in the pioneer days, they brought many traditions from all over the globe with them.

Nevada – Las Vegas especially – is a melting pot of different cultures, religions and walks of life. Nevada author Patricia Cafferata took up the task of looking into those holiday traditions over the last 100 years and turn it into a book, aptly titled "Christmas in Nevada." 

"Going back to 1858, which is the first story in the book, and the stories go up through 2010," Cafferata said.

She collected the stories by looking through old newspapers, because there were so few books during the state's early years.

"It sounds like easy research but when you have 17 counties and they all had one or two newspapers, so you can read a lot of December issues in 150 years, looking for unique stories," she explained.

Many of the early stories center around what Nevada was centered on when European settlers first arrived: mining. The first story in the book is set in a mining camp. 

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"That is the classic Nevada Christmas story and it was entitled "Nevada's Christmas Carol" and it really isn't like the Christmas Carol that we know, the Dickens' "Christmas Carol", but it is Nevada story," Cafferata said. "It's about a mining camp and it's fiction. And it was written by Samuel Davis, who was newspaper columnist back in the 1870s, 80s and 90s."

The later part of the book centers on Las Vegas. 

According to Cafferata, the waves of settlers to the state from Europeans to African Americans have brought their own brand of traditions. One of the biggest groups of immigrants to the state is the Basques. Cafferata found a story centered on the Basque people.

"The Basques' tradition story is one that Robert Laxalt, one of our more famous Nevada authors, wrote and that's in the book," she said.

Cafferata found differences also between Northern and Southern Nevada and how people celebrate the holidays.

"One of the traditions that has to do with trees is people in Northern Nevada many times go out get a BLM or Forest Service permit to cut down their pinyon pine and bring it home to decorate," she said. "I don't think that's a tradition that particularly happens in Nevada"

Guests

Patricia Cafferata, author, "Christmas in Nevada" 

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