Even The Pioneers Had a Hard Time Keeping Christ in Christmas


We’ve heard it before: how the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season can be distracting to the real “reason for the season”—Christ.

It is far too easy to get caught up in presents, movies, traveling, and eating. Sometimes we forget to honor the reason for the celebration in the first place. If these struggles feel relevant to you, you are not alone—even the pioneers needed a reminder to put the “Christ” back into “Christmas”.

A pioneer story

Photo of Christmas Presents

In his article, “‘All Hail to Christmas’: Mormon Pioneer Holiday Celebrations,” scholar Richard Ian Kimball tells the story of a few pioneers who lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas. He writes, “Just days after Brigham Young’s large 1850 holiday party was carried off in decorous fashion, Apostle Parley P. Pratt took aim at less respectable Christmas activities. On New Years Day 1851, Pratt delivered a sermon at the Fourteenth Ward schoolhouse. Pratt hoped that “the same proceedings would not be permitted in that house as were practiced in some parts of the valley.”

Kimball goes on to say, “For instance, Pratt pointed out, “some of his young people rode out to the north country at Christmas, spent the Sabbath and was informed they had been to a party ate and drank, fiddled and danced. Did they sing and pray at their party? No! Did they ask a blessing at the table? No! Pratt told his folks he did not wish them to attend any more dances among a people who had no time to sing, pray, ask a blessing, or go to a meeting.”  

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The importance of finding balance

Close-up of Christmas Decoration Hanging on Tree

When I first read this, Pratt’s response seemed a little harsh. After all, if these party-goers’ worst crime was a little fiddling and dancing, it seemed pretty permissible to me. But the issue wasn’t that these Pioneers were dancing or eating—the problem was that they were choosing these activities instead of singing, praying, or attending church meetings.

I don’t think celebrating around Christmastime is a negative thing. It should bring us joy to see the ones we love, socialize, play games, decorate a tree, and buy gifts. However, we shouldn’t get so wrapped up in the superficial that we forget to worship and nourish our spirits through church meetings, prayer, and scripture reading.

Related: My Christmas Present for Former Members: A Ticket to Come Home (for Real)

Allowing Christ to “enter in”

Image result for lds christmas paintings mary manger
Image via churchofjesuschrist.org

In the last verse of Hymn 208, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” it reads:

“How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heav’n.
No ear may hear his coming;
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.” 
Christ was born without worldly celebration. He was born in a humble stable. We will not get closer to Him through lavish parties or expensive gifts. Through quiet and humble worship we can allow “the dear Christ” to “enter in” to our hearts and lives.

Jane studied English at Brigham Young University-Idaho. She served her mission in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. She enjoys listening to the Beach Boys with her husband and their Great Dane, Cooper. She is learning to fly fish and has just started making her own pickles.