22. After getting settled in the Salt Lake Valley, how were the children able to celebrate Christmas?
Read Clarissa Young’s memory of Christmas during this time:
“Simple as our celebrations were, our elders were fond of reminding us how very much more fortunate we were than the children of two decades earlier when a good square meal was ample cause for celebrating any day in the year. Within the short space of three years the population of the city had increased to thousands, and the Christmas celebration took on a still greater air of gaiety. A brass band paraded up and down the streets, with the players mounted on horseback. They serenaded at Father’s house as well as the homes of other Church leaders. All the toys were home made, the ads in the paper carrying no mention of commercial playthings. However, if a husband wished to delight his wife with a new bonnet on Christmas morning, there was Mrs. A. Smith, “Late of St. Louis,” who advertised a superior assortment of velvet, silk, satin, and straw bonnets, and a variety of fancy goods and millinery.
For days before Christmas I would slip into the family store, north of the Beehive House, and watch John Haslam tie up little square packages of nuts and raisins during his spare time. It was doubly worth my while because I could always count on his slipping me a lump of sugar or some other tasty bit while he was working. We would receive these nuts and raisins on Christmas morning along with vinegar and molasses candy that the girls had made and an abundance of “store” candy—gumdrops and peppermint sticks.
There was no tree in our home, for at that time the Christmas tree had not even come into general use in the East, but we always hung up our stockings, and every child received one toy and some clothing. We girls would receive knitted scarves, nubias (headdresses), mittens, shoes, stockings, garters, and wristers. John Spencer’s first present to me was a pair of silk knitted wristers for which he had spent an entire week’s wages. I nearly died of humiliation when a young nephew said scornfully right in his presence, “Is that all you brought her?” Some of us younger girls once received some red cashmere hoods that Mother’s sister had made for us. They were made with a pointed cape in the back and trimmed with white swansdown and would have been rather pretty except that they had been lined with green cambric and tied with green ribbons because they were the only materials available in the house. As it was, they were a dreadful mixture of colors, and I hated them vehemently.
The boys would often receive new capes for Christmas, those being the outer garment most commonly worn. My brother Ernest, who was a big, husky fellow and didn’t feel the cold very much, would wear his about his waist in skirt fashion to the great amusement of the rest of us.
For Christmas toys the boys would get swords, drums, guns, and skates while we girls would be made happy with wooden-headed dollies. The heads were turned in our own carpenter shop, then painted and sewed onto cloth bodies. When the dolls were finished they would be beautifully dressed by our diligent mothers. There was a Betsy Long who had a shop on Main Street where she made lovely wooden dolls, and conveniently near by was a woman basketmaker who could make equally fine bassinets.”
Taken from: Clarissa Young Spencer, Brigham Young at Home, p. 184 – 185.