Sunday, December 23, 2018

It’s What Brigham Preferred to do on Christmas

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What did Brigham Young enjoy doing on Christmas Day?
a.                  Eating
b.                  Teaching the Saints
c.                   Relaxing at home
d.                  Sleigh riding
Yesterday’s answer:
C   The temple construction site
The Journal History recorded an interesting account of the Christmas celebration in 1851:
“Christmas Day. Fine weather prevailed in Great Salt Lake City. All the hands engaged on the public works attended a picnic party at Carpenter’s Shop on the Temple Block which was cleared and decorated for the occasion. Several hundred persons attended and enjoyed themselves in both dance and song. President Brigham Young was also present. The enjoyments were varied with songs and addresses. The brethren of the band serenaded the inhabitants of the city from midnight till daylight, which was quite a treat.”
George D. Watt wrote the following account of these same Christmas events:
“Early on Christmas morning, Thursday, December 25, several companies of serenaders, with brass instruments, made the sleeping mountains echo with the sound of rejoicing. Our attention was drawn more particularly to the Governor’s mansion, in the front to which was drawn up in military order a troop of horsemen. This was the bass band giving his Excellency a good wish in sweet strains.
“At ten o’clock a.m. the committee of management was in respectful waiting to receive those who were invited to the party. The Carpenters’ Hall, one hundred feet long and thirty-two feet wide, is admirably adapted for a mammoth party, which was comfortable and suitably decorated for the occasion. Now the merry workmen, with their happy wives and smiling daughters clad in genteel apparel, came pouring in from every quarter loaded with an abundance of luxuries of every description, which were deposited in an adjoining hall called the machine room, which is forty feet square, in which also was situated the ladies’ dressing room.
“At eleven o’clock the house was called to order and a suitable prayer and thanksgiving was offered up to the Donor of All Good by Bishop N. H. Felt. The band then struck up a merry tune, and his Excellency, Governor Young, and Hon. H. C. Kimball, and other distinguished personages led off the first dance.
“The excellent order, the quick succession of dances do great honor to the managers. We counted from ninety-six persons to one hundred forty-four persons upon the floor at once. These were set in order in the same time that we have seen four cotillions in other parties. There was no confusion, no dissatisfied looks, no complaining, but the day passed in peace and happy merriment, with thanksgiving to the Father of all our mercies. . . .
“The atmosphere of our hall was not polluted with tobacco fumes or the stench of the drunkard’s breath. No! We breathed the pure mountain air, drank of the mountain stream, and ate the produce of mountain valleys, we thought on the gloomy past and the glorious present and prospective future; every heart beat high with gratitude and gladness, and every countenance was lit up with the bright fire of enduring friendship.
“About seven o’clock a few songs were sung by sundry individuals, one in particular that called up feelings not strange to us, was sung by Phineas H. Young, entitled ‘Farewell to Nauvoo.’ This song gave the company an ample opportunity of comparing the present with the past.
“Governor Young arose to address the meeting and congratulated the assembly on their present situation and blessings as a people.” He talked about the persecutions they had endured and surmounted and how blessed they were to now live in the mountains where “none could make us afraid.” He said, “Your barns and presses are filled with fine wheat and other produce of these days, your tables groan under the abundance of blessings of the Almighty. There is no room for complaint.” He also talked about tithing and that he was resolved to build a house unto the Lord “where He can come or send His servants.” The congregation shouted “Yea!” to this news.
The benediction followed, and the dancing and merriment stopped for the night.
The celebration continued on Friday, December 25. The citizens again met in the Carpenters’ Hall and danced until midnight.
Musical entertainment was enjoyed in between dances. John Kay, his wife, and two daughters performed, one on a guitar and the other on a tambourine, at the same time singing. Then Mr. and Mrs. Kay sang a duet after which John Kay sang “The Seer,” which caused Willard Richards to respond. He talked about the difference between this evening and June 27, 1844. He recalled the vents of the tragedy at Carthage, Illinois, when Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were murdered. George A. Smith also addressed the meeting, and then the dancing resumed. 
At 10 o’clock a vote of thanks was called for to show gratitude to Daniel H. Wells, chairman, and Miles Romney, clerk, for all the work they had done organizing the celebration. Five hundred people responded with enthusiasm. After the benediction was rendered, the group left and returned to their homes, declaring that this festival was the best they had ever been to.
International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Museum Memories (Talon Printing: Salt Lake City, 2011), 3: 220-222.

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