A Community Christmas in Bismarck
On this date in 1922, children in North Dakota knew exactly where Santa Claus was – he had arrived by train in Bismarck that afternoon on the No. 8 train, having abandoned sleigh and reindeer for the modern convenience.
Approximately 1500 children greeted him at the station, where he told them he was ready and willing to bring good cheer to the area, and provide the children with a real Christmas.
Santa Claus, along with committee members from the Bismarck Community Council and some members of the Goodfellows, a charity group, spent the next few days taking care of official business. He answered all the mail he had received through the local post office, and he called on children around town, starting with those in need and those who were unwell.
Santa was aided in his good deeds by many local businesses and by the Salvation Army, which delivered baskets of goods funded by the kettles on the streets, for which local residents had been particularly giving over the last couple of days.
Finally, families in the area were able to attend the first Community Christmas, which was held at the city auditorium on the 26th. The program included songs, recitations, and dialogues provided by 85 Salvation Army Sunday School children. Near the end, a little snow house belonging to Santa appeared on the stage, and the nearly hysterical children clapped and called for him to come out – which he did, yawning and stretching after his hard work. He told them he "had already turned his reindeer out to pasture and was ready to leave Bismarck," but not before he handed out candy and apples, one child at a time, to the anxious crowd of youngsters.
As the Bismarck Tribune reported, "The repeated applause of both grown folks and children, and the irrepressible joy of the little folks, showed very clearly that the Community Christmas was one of the greatest treats of their lives."
Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker
The Bismarck Tribune, December 22, 1922, p1; December 23, 1922, p1; December 27, 1922, p1