The Blizzard of Aught-Nine

Christmas Eve. Southeastern Kansas, 2009. The middle of nowhere.

Kansas is one of those places that gets a bad rap. People speak of Kansas like it’s Death Valley, or the hindparts of Mars.

People say stuff like, “Yeah, I drove through Kansas once, I was bored spitless for six hours.”

But that’s only because they aren’t seeing the Sunflower State the right way. The Thirty-Fourth State can bewitch you if you open yourself to its quiet beauty.

First you have the sunsets. Kansan sunsets are neon red and gold, vivid enough to put Claude Monet to shame. The sundowns are an ecological phenomenon, caused by red dust in the atmosphere which has traveled all the way from the Sahara to suspend itself above Bourbon and Neosho County.

Also, you have sublime flatness. Millions of Americans visit the Gulf of Mexico each year to stare at prairie-flat blueness. Kansans have a gulf of their own.

Currently, the state has 15.8 million acres of virgin prairie. You can stand at certain places in this state and, literally, be hundreds of miles from the nearest Super Target.

In the wintertime, however, Kansas has earth-stopping blizzards. This is the geographical center of the nation. They get all the weather you didn’t want.

Tornadoes. Fatal summers. Snowstorms harsh enough to make Scandinavia look like a weekend in Honolulu.

It was during one such snowstorm, on Christmas Eve, that Marie was at home. She was a young mother, with two children. They lived in a 40-foot single wide, perched on 200 acres of family land.

The blizzard of aught-nine was apocryphal. Many evangelicals believed this was the literal end of the world and were sincerely repenting of their evil ways, committing themselves to prayer, fasting, and self flagellation. Meanwhile, the German Catholics decided to take up vodka as hobby.

To say the storm was “bad” is like saying invasive dental surgery is “kinda fun.” In some places there were four-foot snow drifts. Parked F-150s were obscured by white dunes. Front doors were blocked.

Marie’s husband was a construction worker. He arrived home after work, mid-blizzard, driving a big delivery truck. He opened the rear gate. Fourteen Mexican men leapt out.

These were men who had no cars. Usually, each morning, these coworkers hitched rides with fellow employees, to and from work.

But tonight they were stranded. So Marie’s husband brought them home to Neosho County.

“Are you crazy?” Marie said to her husband. “It’s Christmas, we don’t have room for these people.”

Marie’s two young daughters were, however, thrilled with their new visitors. They had 14 brand new friends for Christmas. The living room was standing room only. Only one man among them spoke English.

Marie pulled her husband aside. “What are we going to feed everyone?” she said.

“I don’t know,” her husband said. “But there was no way I could leave them alone on Christmas.”

As it happened, the Mexican men had brought some food of their own. It was food they brought for lunch each day. They had coolers filled with chicken and beef, tamales, and fresh vegetables their wives had sent with them.

They even had microwave ovens and hot plates they often used to cook on jobsites.

The men overtook Marie’s kitchen, and got to work preparing a veritable fiesta. They used ingredients and items found in Marie’s pantry, combined with their own fresh spices and veggies.

“We ate chicken mole,” said Marie. “I’d never eaten mole before, it was the best thing I’ve ever tasted. They made something called pozole, and we ate tamales that were so good I almost cried.”

When night fell, the men all gathered in the warm den, around the tree, to hang out, drink wine, and sing songs.

In many regions of Mexico, people give gifts on Christmas Eve. So the men exchanged gifts with one another and with Marie’s family.

They gave whatever they had on them. One man gave Marie a pocketknife. Another gave her a gold necklace with a crucifix. A teenage boy gave her a wood carving of a dove.

Soon, everyone was exchanging gifts in the dark living room. Marie gave several gifts, too.

“I was giving them whatever I could find in the closet,” said Marie.

One man received a scented Yankee candle. Another man got a porcelain rooster that Marie’s grandmother had gifted her a few birthdays ago. One man received a bottle of strawberry wine. Another man got a One Year Bible she’d received from her church group for Christmas. The man wept when he saw it.

“No puedo leer Inglés,” he said, touching the book. Tears in his eyes.

“That’s okay,” said Marie’s 9-year-old daughter. “I’ll read it to you out loud.”

So her daughter read the Bible to all the men, while another man translated. They read the Christmas story.

“When I saw my husband come home with all those people,” said Marie, “I thought it would be the worst day in the world. I was so disappointed. But it turned out to be probably the best Christmas we ever had.”

So anyway, now you know why Marie’s family eats tamales every Christmas Eve.


  1. Debbie g - December 4, 2022 6:53 am

    Thank you Sean love you and Jamie and love to us all
    Feliz Navidad 🙏💕

  2. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - December 4, 2022 7:18 am

    That’s another good story!

  3. Susan - December 4, 2022 9:08 am

    Oh.My.Goodness.Gracious. This is the best story to remember always. Thanks, Sean.

  4. PMc - December 4, 2022 9:26 am

    Great Christmas story, I imagine everyone had a wonderful story to share with their families.
    Peace and Love from Birmingham 🙏🎄

  5. Carolyn Kelley - December 4, 2022 10:54 am

    What a beautiful story

  6. Mary Spechko - December 4, 2022 11:11 am

    What a lovely story Sean!

  7. Maureen A Chapman - December 4, 2022 11:38 am

    I’m not crying. You’re crying!
    I lived in AZ for almost 40 years.
    I have stories such as this with both Mexican workers and forgotten Native Americans.
    Love your stories. Bless you Sean!⭐️💎⭐️

  8. Rhett - December 4, 2022 11:41 am

    Great story for this preacher before he afflicts his flock.

  9. mccutchen52 - December 4, 2022 11:55 am

    Another great story Sean. Marie needs to hold on to her husband. He is one in a million.

    • Susie - December 4, 2022 9:26 pm

      Indeed she does, McCutchen! Hang onto HIM!!

  10. Gwen W. Young - December 4, 2022 12:07 pm

    How kind! What a story!❤️😭
    How kind!!! What a Christmas story!!!❤️😭

  11. Ht - December 4, 2022 12:50 pm


  12. Greyn - December 4, 2022 12:56 pm

    That might be the most true spirit of Christmas thing I have ever read. Certainly near the top. Gracias.

  13. Julie - December 4, 2022 1:03 pm

    This is a great story Sean!! Thank you for sharing!

  14. Ruth - December 4, 2022 1:21 pm

    It truly was a blessed holy time for them all. Thank you for this uplifting story of light and love amidst all the sad and dark things we hear everyday. God bless you and your family.

  15. Priscilla Rodgers - December 4, 2022 1:23 pm

    Now that’s the story of why we have Christmas. Thanks Sean

  16. Linda Lewis - December 4, 2022 1:34 pm

    Wow! Another one of your heartwarming stories. However, you outdid yourself this time. I almost cried with joy reading this one. Each day I love to see what you have written for us, and you don’t disappoint. Merry Christmas to you and your wife. I hope you have a great Christmas.

  17. David - December 4, 2022 1:52 pm

    Great story of the Christmas spirit told only as you can do Sean! Have a great Sunday!

  18. kip carter - December 4, 2022 2:10 pm

    I lived in Kansas for three years. The nicest people that I have ever met!

  19. beachdreamer - December 4, 2022 2:29 pm

    Awesome! This is what Christmas is about…or should be. I imagine that story will be told and retold for years to come. Thank you, Sean, for again sharing your gift of words. A blessing to all who read them. God bless us everyone. ❤️

  20. Peggy M. Windham - December 4, 2022 2:43 pm

    What an awesome Christmas story! Thanks for sharing that story of love!

  21. Stacey Wallace - December 4, 2022 2:47 pm

    Sean, thanks for the sweet story. Feliz Navidad. Love to you, Jamie, and Marigold.

  22. Harriet White - December 4, 2022 2:48 pm

    That’s the best Christmas story! I work with Guatemala guys everyday doing landscaping and they are the nicest people. I love those guys.

  23. Cynthia Kamstra - December 4, 2022 2:50 pm

    Eye rivers. ♥️

  24. Tracy - December 4, 2022 3:03 pm

    It’s the unexpected moments of kindness that make us happy, God bless her husband and his guest that gave them a Christmas they will never forget. My family also has a Mexican fiesta every Christmas eve and it gets bigger every year.

  25. Jeff - December 4, 2022 3:07 pm

    Beautiful! Thanks. God bless you.

  26. kingswaydaughter - December 4, 2022 3:54 pm

    What a great story to read to my family on Christmas Eve.

  27. Phyllis Ratliff - December 4, 2022 4:15 pm

    The Christmas story, Kansas style. Beautiful!

  28. LaurMay - December 4, 2022 4:25 pm

    Yet another superb story! Thank you, Sean. Hugs to Jamie and the hounds!

  29. Pubert Earle Bozemann - December 4, 2022 4:36 pm

    Sean, not sure if somebody sends you these stories or iif you make them up,, built most of your posts have a heartwarming angle to them. But one practical question: where did all these folks sleep and go to the bathroom??? Most single wides I’ve seen, that’d be a houseparty to remember!

    fiesta para las edades!

    Your friend,


    • Susie - December 4, 2022 9:31 pm

      Pubert, I’m sure it would be interesting. Just use your imagination. Lol

  30. Bruce Rogers - December 4, 2022 4:54 pm

    Heart warming and much appreciated; thank you🙏

  31. Rebecca Souders - December 4, 2022 5:06 pm

    A great Christmas story, Sean Dietrich. we should all be so lucky and so generous. Thanks. Again.

  32. Regina Vanderneut - December 4, 2022 5:11 pm

    This story is the epitome of WHY Christ became my redeemer from sin!!!

  33. Melissa Brown - December 4, 2022 5:17 pm

    Such a touching Christmas story / this is what Christmas is all about. Love – Kindness – the Birth of Christ – sharing and giving to each other and those less fortunate !! Thank you Sean Dietrich – Merry Christmas !!!!

  34. Susan Granade - December 4, 2022 5:37 pm

    This brought tears to my eyes. When human beings are bad, they are very, very bad, but when they’re good, they delight, amaze, and bring each other to tears.

  35. Lee Henderson - December 4, 2022 5:50 pm

    My wife and I left North Carolina for Kansas in 1984 for a new opportunity ….my NC family , cuz’s ,uncle and friends thought we were crazy. It was the best experience in our life. The people were warm and on our first Christmas there many families both at work and church invited us into their homes over the Christmas Holidays. Yes the winters were nasty, grocery bags all had winter travel warnings on them. We had sleeping bags, water, snack bars, etc in the trunk of our car along with a Colman stove and water proof matches. But on one winter trip to Colorado in west Kansas at night where there is zero light we parked our car and turned off our lights and waited for our eyes to adjust. We then looked up to the heavens . I do not have the writing skills to describe what the stars looked like covering the sky from horizon to horizon . It was easy to see how 3 wise men could be led to the birthplace of Jesus

  36. Susie, as well - December 4, 2022 6:31 pm

    This was such a special story. Loved it!

  37. Karen Holderman - December 4, 2022 7:11 pm

    What beautiful Christmas miracle.

  38. MAM - December 4, 2022 7:18 pm

    Tamales are delicious no matter the time of year, but it’s also traditional in the Southwest to have tamales for Christmas eve. We always try to find the best ones in town. Usually the best ones are made by Hispanic women who were raised in the tradition. Try them and enjoy them (but remember to remove the corn husks that hold them together!). 🙂 Thanks, Sean, for another heart-warming story!

  39. Ronda Giesel - December 4, 2022 8:00 pm

    I love this story! Bless the dear couple for their kindness! Kansas is a great state! I was born and raised there.

  40. Susie - December 4, 2022 9:23 pm

    Oh, what a sweet story, Sean..💖 Thank you!

  41. Pubert Earle Bozemann - December 4, 2022 10:21 pm

    To Susie: I have!!! 18 people,1 single wide. I can’t do the math on that one!!

    eso es mucho espiritu navideño El Toro!

  42. Pubert Earl Bozemann - December 4, 2022 10:29 pm

    ¿Alquilan baños portátiles con calefacción en Kansas?

  43. Nick Gibbs - December 4, 2022 10:50 pm

    I’m a 76 year old Alabama boy that is so glad I heard about you
    What a gift you have. Love your tales.

  44. Michelle Hoffmann - December 4, 2022 11:58 pm

    So lovely. You make me cry all the time 🙂

  45. George Robert Leach - December 5, 2022 3:30 am

    That’s a good reason to eat tamales.

  46. Nan - December 5, 2022 5:30 am

    I absolutely love to eat tamales on Christmas Day…and several other days throughout the year!

  47. Sandy Burnett - December 5, 2022 1:00 pm

    Blessings come in unexpected ways, snowstorms and semis and Sean’s columns. Thank you for sharing the simple joys of life. Merry Christmas. May you find tamales and porcelain roosters and new friends and Bibles wherever you go . Blessings always

  48. Jan - December 5, 2022 3:37 pm

    Christmas Eve 2009 was going to be our last in our dream home. I’d been transfered to the “big city” for work, and in the recession, there seemed to be no choice. All the family was to gather. But the snow came down and just kept coming — more than 16″. My guys were out pulling cars from snow drifts and taking people home. Family members only a few miles away were hunkering down. I was at home manning the phone until late, when the guys brought my daughter and grandson home and we tucked in warm and safe, thinking we’d just delay Christmas day or two — days that we neede to house hunt so we’d have a place to live in our new city life.
    Christmas morning, I got a call from our church on the highway that passed though our little town. They estimated 150 strangers ended up sleeping in pews and on Sunday School room floors. One of the travelers had played Christmas carols while other sang. But they couldn’t yet leave. Could I come help feed them? And bring whatever food I could find? I pulled all I could from the freezer and our holiday food and the guys took me to church while they headed out to rescue other stranded travelers. We cooked hashbrowns, frozen cookie dough and who knows what else. I think the last headed out about noon the day after Christmas. Our family got together to celebrate and we headed 130 miles southeast. It’s been 13 years, and my daily Facebook memories bring back all the feelings. Today, I’m grateful. God moved us here, and we’ve been able to serve others while growing closer to him. He is good, and the holidays we didn’t plan to celebrate are some of our happiest memories!

  49. Susan W Fitch - December 6, 2022 2:22 pm


  50. suzi - December 7, 2022 12:34 am

    The true meaning of 🎄
    I hope I would be as welcoming.

  51. Patricia Gibson - December 7, 2022 10:09 pm

    That is too beautiful!!! What a wonderful blessing 🎄❤️


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