Question: What popular pioneer Christmas activity also helped Brigham Young get rid of his troubles?
Kicking His Troubles Off His Toes
After pioneers reached the Salt Lake Valley, there was time to celebrate Christmas in more festive ways. Brigham Young’s favorite way was to have a dance. Raised in a strict home, he was taught to believe that even listening “to the sound of a violin was an unforgivable sin,” let alone dancing to it. But he came to believe this was wrong. He thought that dancing was wonderful recreation and that “all good music belongs to heaven.”
If done in an appropriate way, Pres. Young declared, dancing would improve people’s spirits, give them beneficial exercise, and keep them warm in the wintertime. It was an ideal way to celebrate life and praise the Lord through good, wholesome recreation and social interaction.
That Pres. Young loved to dance was well known. But he loved to dance for more than just the recreation. “Besides my own [problems],” he said, “I have the whole people’s burdens, and I get rid of them by kicking them off my toes.” And so, with Pres. Young leading the way, dancing became a favorite entertainment in the pioneer settlements. It was also an important part of almost all Christmas celebrations.
The Saints danced in circles or squares, but only dances that required the gentleman to take the hands or one arm of his partner were allowed. They danced the quadrille and the cotillion, the minuet and the schottische. Some of the dance steps were quite complicated, and a dancing master, or caller, was appointed to give necessary instruction or call out the steps. Soon after the pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, Pres. Young asked George Wardle to start a dancing school so everyone could learn more dance steps. Brigham Young was among the first students, and it was reported that he was among the best, too.
One woman described Pres. Young as “a famous dancer, and certainly one of the most graceful pictures of all those popular men of the olden time.” Everywhere he traveled around the pioneer settlements, dances were held. All the girls, young and old, hoped that they might have the honor of being asked to dance by him.
In 1849 Pres. Young held a large Christmas party and sent out invitations. Everyone expected there would be dancing. This Christmas dance became on of the most popular dances of the whole year and started a winter social season for the pioneers that lasted several months until spring planting called a halt to the gaiety. After the hard work getting in the harvest, and with the winter weather keeping everyone inside, what better way to celebrate Christ’s birth than to praise the Lord with joyful heart, music, and dance?
If you’re feeling a little burdened down this Christmas season, try “kicking your troubles off your toes” by lifting up your two feet & dance!
Taken From: “Christmas with the Prophets,” by Laura Willes, p. 16-19.