Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘Little House on the Prairie’ Christmas Blizzard Episode Drew Inspiration from Real Life Disaster

‘Little House on the Prairie’ Christmas Blizzard Episode Drew Inspiration from Real Life Disaster

TV shows have, at times, found themes or topics for episodes from real-life situations. This happened for Little House on the Prairie.

The Christmas-themed episode titled Blizzard saw residents of Walnut Grove dealing with a massive snowstorm. It was so bad that some kids were not able to get home from school. Tragedy slammed into the city in a big way.

Yet there is some historical backstory to this episode. Back in 1888, a major snowstorm on January 12-13 hit the Great Plains. It is known as the “Schoolhouse Blizzard.” According to the National Weather Service, the storm was named as it was because “so many children died trying to go home from school, [and it] was one of the deadliest winter storms in the upper Midwest.”

According to Do You Remember?, cities and towns were completely without services at all. Another storm slammed into the East Coast in March of that year. Combining both storms. the death count reached nearly 600 people.

On Little House on the Prairie, the snowstorm turned so brutal that the school teacher let the kids go home early. That was nice but kids were still having to deal with serious issues. Some parents in Walnut Grove headed out in the wicked weather to get their children. The children get stuck in the snow. And the townspeople put together a search committee.

Character Runs Out For Family Member, Dies

It was a horrible time for Ted McGinnis, who went out in the blizzard. McGinnis was not dressed for the moment, even though his son was safe. McGinnis succumbed to hypothermia and died. As the family reunions take place in Walnut Grove, they manage to gather in the town church. That’s where Charles Ingalls, played by Michael Landon, goes into the pulpit. He reads the Nativity Story from the Gospel of Luke, giving those gathered there a reminder of what the season is all about.

Here’s a touching scene from that Little House on the Prairie episode.

Michael Landon Influenced ‘Little House on the Prairie’

Having heartfelt episodes like this one helped cement this show’s place in TV lore. Landon, who pretty much had a hand in all aspects of Little House on the Prairie, wanted a family show. Making this historic moment into a storyline only helped to deepen the fans’ love for these characters.

Besides Landon, of course, other stars on the show included Karen Grassle, Melissa Sue Anderson, Melissa Gilbert, Alison Arngrim, Patrick Labyorteaux, and Sidney and Lindsay Greenbush.

Doing a Christmas episode, even one with an incredibly hard subject matter, helped Little House on the Prairie maintain its ratings. Landon liked the idea of doing shows for a family to watch. After Little House finished its run on NBC, Landon returned to TV in Highway to Heaven. Turns out that it was a ratings hit.

Landon had tried to offer suggestions about scripts and dialogue as a part of Bonanza. But he became frustrated when hardly anyone would listen to him. Landon did think that when his days of playing “Little Joe” Cartwright were done, he could focus on his own projects.

Melissa Gilbert Remains Professional Over the Years

Gilbert has always been complimentary about Landon. She stays active on Instagram while working on another television project. But Gilbert also has been in plays as well. Arngrim has stayed pretty open about the times that she spent on the show. Grassle wrote a book about her experiences on Little House on the Prairie.

While Blizzard takes place at Christmas time, it’s not the only holiday episode from the show. In the eighth season, they aired A Christmas They Never Forgot. Another snowstorm is centering around Walnut Grove, trapping Caroline, Laura, and Hester Sue. They start sharing memories about past Christmases.