Question: How can we have the Christmas spirit wherever we are in the world and in various circumstances – even from Tooele to Tubuai?
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Christmas in Tubuai
On April 6, 1850 President Brigham Young called Louisa Barnes Pratt as a missionary to the women and children of the South Sea Islands. She and her four daughters left Salt Lake City May 7, 1850 in company with other missionaries, some of whom, took their families. She was the first woman called to fill a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After five and one-half months of traveling 1,000 miles on land and 5,000 miles by water they arrived safely at their destination.
Addison Pratt and her husband, had been in the Islands on a mission for 8 months. Her mission was not in connection with his as she was called to work only with the women and children. Her previous training had been in the teaching profession. Her eldest daughter, then 19, learned the native language easily and acted as interpreter until her mother could master it.
From Louisa Barnes Pratt journal is the following description of how they celebrated Christmas, 1851 in Tubuai. Mrs. Pratt had taught the people of the life and mission of Jesus Christ and the story of His birth. As Christmas time drew near she told them that they would have a celebration with a great feast. This pleased the women and children very much so they went about making preparations. First she told them they must clean the building or the angels would not attend. This was a large room which was used for all Church services. They took sand and scoured all the benches and floor. Now began the work of decorating the place. In the center of the room was a large pillar supporting the roof. On either side she placed an Ito tree of the most vivid green, which extended almost to the roof. On these trees they placed tea leaves, made into wreaths by the women, which added a bright color and a pleasing fragrance. Added to these were the beautiful flowers of the Bauran tree, making a contrast of lively green and yellow; also, branches of the lime tree with the fruit still hanging on them. Then Mrs. Pratt hung pictures of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum. The native saints regarded them with great reverence. Only the church members and their friends were invited to the festivities.
Just before the program started, natives who were not church members from far and near gathered around the building peeping through the windows admiring the decorations. The Chief was worried they would be asked to be sent away. He pleaded for them as a father; told her they had never seen anything or felt Christmas like this before, and would she let them stay because he just couldn’t send them away. She could see how much they were all affected and that he was justified in asking and consented to let them feast their eyes on the room as long as they wished.
Then came the dinner and such a dinner it was. Pigs weighing 100 pounds were roasted whole. There was plenty of wild chickens and fish of all kinds. There was poi, bread fruit, coconuts, pineapples, bananas and many kinds of native fruit. The milk from the coconuts was used for the beverage. Each article of food, prepared the day before, was wrapped in large leaves, excluding the air, and piled in a heap resembling a haystack ready for use. Mats were spread for seats. Very few had knives, or forks or spoons and a large palm leaf was used for a plate. Leaves woven together made the tablecloth. When all was in readiness, Franklin Grouard blessed the food and offered thanks for their many blessings. After dinner they held a religious service.
As evening came on, the room was lighted with all the glass lamps they could get in the village. Jonathan Crossly played the violin and Mrs. Pratt’s daughter, Ellen, played the flutina, and added to this were the sweet voices of the singers. It seemed in reality like the birthday of the Savior. The day was very warm. In Mrs. Pratt’s words: “As I gazed on the scenery, beautiful beyond description, the tall, stately coconut trees reaching toward the sky, verdure everywhere, the roar of the mighty ocean, it seemed I must be in a different world entirely from the one in which my parents and all my relatives, save those who were with me, lived, wrapped in ice and snow as I knew they would be on this day in far-off Canada and New England; but I knew their love and blessings were wafted to us, and that in their hearts, as in ours, glowed the love of the lowly Master and the Spirit of Christmas.”
First Christmas in Tooele
The following incident was taken from the biography of Sarah Lucretia Holbrook Tolman telling of the first Christmas in Tooele.
“When the children awoke on Christmas morning in 1849, not a doll was to be found in all the land, no, not even a stick of candy, or an apple was found in the cabins. But the children and their parents were happy for all that. They were glad that they still had a little to eat, and prospects before them in their new homes were beginning to grow brighter every day. But, if there were no dolls or toys for the children, the fathers and mothers could not forget Christmas, and before the day was over they all had a jolly time.
In the evening they all met at the cabin of John Rowberry. This was the house where the first meetings were held. There they had an old fashioned dance to wind up the day, and it was the merriest crowd that ever met in a Christmas gathering . They were all young married people and as full of fun and frolic as it was possible for young people to be. Some of them were very good dancers, and a few were good singers. Those attending the first Christmas party held in Tooele in 1849 were John Rowberry, wife and five children; Cyrus Tolman, wife and two children; Judson Tolman, wife and one child; Captain Wright, wife and one boy; Samuel Mecham and wife, Mr. Bravett, wife and five children, Benjamin and Robert Shelton, enough parents and children to fill John Rowberry’s house for a good Christmas party. But the great drawback was music. Not an instrument of any kind was to be found. Cyrus Call was a very good whistler and he whistled tunes while the merry pioneers danced. The dancers had a good time until just before midnight, when the dance broke up and that was the end of the first Christmas that was held in this city.”
How can you glow with love and Christmas Spirit even if you are away from home or under hard circumstances this Christmas?
Kate B. Carter, Treasures of Pioneer History – p. 196-198 “A Pioneer Christmas” from Elinor Brockbank Brimhall.