Pioneer Day: Mormons, Utahns recall a journey with concerts, parades & fireworks

NOTE: Several Pioneer Day activities take place prior to July 24, such as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s concert, which will be live streamed on mormontabernaclechoir.org at 8 p.m. on July 21.

Crowd in park outside, casual

A town dinner in Monroe, Utah, on Pioneer Day. Phot by Ken Lund, courtesy of Flickr

TUESDAY, JULY 24: Across the state of Utah and in Mormon communities worldwide, Pioneer Day marks the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers into Salt Lake Valley. Parades, fireworks, rodeos, carnivals and more accompany festivals in Utah—and also in Colorado, New Mexico, Hawaii and Canada. On this date in 1847, Brigham Young and his followers ended a thousand-mile search for a permanent settlement and an escape from religious persecution. Many voyagers didn’t survive the difficult journey, and on Pioneer Day, Utahns pay homage to all pioneers—Mormon or not. Across Utah, many governmental offices and places of business are closed for the state holiday.

Portions of the Mormon Trail are reenacted each year in Utah, and an elaborate Days of ’47 festival envelops the entire city of Salt Lake each July. If you’re traveling through Utah at this time of year, you’re in for a treat!

FROM NAUVOO, ILLINOIS TO SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH

In the final months before their journey West, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could feel the growing tension. They were no longer welcome in Nauvoo, Illinois, and when their founder—prophet Joseph Smith—was murdered on June 27, 1844, the need to leave became urgent. The Mormons left their settlement in Nauvoo for a new homeland, and after a treacherous journey, the surviving pilgrims crossed into Salt Lake City on July 24. (Find resources, historical photographs and more with links from the state of Utah.) The first statewide Pioneer Day celebration was held a decade later, in 1857, and July 24 remains a state holiday in Utah to this day.

Black-and-white photo of pioneers in covered wagons

Mormon pioneers, July 1847. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A PIONEER-ERA CELEBRATION

Many participants reenact a portion of the Mormon trail each year near July 24, trekking several miles to make the grand entrance into Salt Lake City by handcart.

For Utahns, the Days of ’47 festival commemorates the entire region’s culture and history—not just those of the Mormon pioneers. (The pioneer era is considered to have ended in 1869 with the arrival of the transcontinental railroad.) Significant settlers in Utah’s pioneer history are celebrated, an Intertribal Powwow lights up Liberty Park in Salt Lake City and parades, fireworks and rodeos fill the streets and grounds of Salt Lake in the days surrounding July 24.

THE MORMON TABERNACLE CHOIR EMBRACES BROADWAY

The height of Mormon activities is the grand performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which this year will feature a former star of “Glee” and a Broadway performer: Matthew Morrison and Laura Michelle Kelly, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Morrison and Kelly were co-stars in the Broadway production of “Finding Neverland,” and they will be performing in Broadway-themed Pioneer Day concerts July 20 and 21. In addition, Morrison and Kelly will appear on the July 22 broadcast of “Music and the Spoken Word.”

Watch online: The concert will be live streamed on mormontabernaclechoir.org at 8 p.m. on July 21. On-demand videos of the concert in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and German will be available by July 30 on motab.org/pioneerday.

This year, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Pioneer Day performances will also include an appearance by Oscar Hammerstein III, grandson of the lyricist and music theater producer, who will narrate a portion of the program.

Ready for some pioneer fun at home? Try out these creative pioneer crafts for kids, courtesy of the Crafty Crow.

Pioneer Day: Mormons celebrate Brigham Young and Salt Lake City

Hundreds of members of Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform in Mormon Temple

Broadway’s former “Cinderella” star performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for this year’s Pioneer Day concerts. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

FRIDAY, JULY 24: Across the state of Utah and in Mormon communities worldwide, Pioneer Day marks the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers into Salt Lake Valley. Parades, fireworks, rodeos, carnivals and more accompany festivals in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Hawaii and Canada. On this date in 1847, Brigham Young and his followers ended a thousand-mile search for a permanent settlement and an escape from religious persecution. (Wikipedia has details.) Many voyagers didn’t survive the difficult journey, and on Pioneer Day, Utahns pay homage to all pioneers—Mormon or not. Across Utah, many governmental offices and places of business are closed for the state holiday.

Did you know? Some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reenact the entrance of pioneers into Salt Lake Valley, by handcart, each Pioneer Day. Annually, Pioneer Days draws approximately 250,000 people.

This year, activities for Pioneer Day in Salt Lake City began a week before July 24, brimming with live music, pioneer heritage activities, pancake breakfasts and more. (Read more in the Salt Lake Tribune.) For Ogden Pioneer Days, Elder D. Todd Christofferson spoke during the annual devotional, referencing the Sermon on the Mount when he spoke of the need for reconciliation, forgiveness and a culture of community. (Deseret News has the story.) In contrast to Mormon-centered activities, some bars and restaurants are gearing up for “Pie ‘n’ Beer Day,” a homophonic allusion to Pioneer Day that is based in Utah. Non-Mormons who reported feeling out of place during the Pioneer Day activities say that they now have a place to go on July 24. (New York Times reported.)

NEWS: TEMPLE OPEN FOR TOURS, A NEW ELDER & CINDERELLA SINGING

Following three years of construction on a 34,000-square-foot building, Mormonism’s newest temple, will be open for tours to non-Mormons in Indiana through August 8. During the past decade, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has only opened three or four temples worldwide each year, reaching a total of 147. Despite reports that the religion’s numbers are declining, officials expect that the temple in Indiana will host 75,000 visitors before closing its doors to non-Mormons, at which time it will serve approximately 30,000 Mormons in the state. (Read more from USA Today, Fox News and Indianapolis Monthly.)

With the death of 90-year old Boyd Packer, it has been reported that Russell Nelson will take over the position of president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the second-highest governing body of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a statement, the Church said that the apostles have “heavy administrative responsibilities as they oversee the orderly progress and development of the global church.”

Broadway star Laura Osnes, best known for her role as “Cinderella,” joined the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra for its Pioneer Day concert July 17 and 18. (Watch a video of the performance here.) Prior to the performances, Osnes—nominated for a Tony Award and recipient of several other awards—described her excitement in performing with such a renowned and enormous group. (Read more here.)

Interfaith Calendar: Religious and Cultural Observances

Read The Spirit reports on major holidays, festivals, milestones and other observances that shape community life around the world. As we approach these special dates, our columnist Stephanie Fenton reports fresh stories about the way each milestone is marked. Please remember: DATES and OBSERVANCES VARY. Contact us if you notice an error—or want to suggest a holiday we should include in our coverage.

Here is our 2020 list …

JANUARY 2020

1—Mary, Mother of God (Catholic Christian)

1—Feast of St. Basil (Orthodox Christian)

1—Gantan-sai (New Year) (Shinto)

5—Twelfth Night (Christian)

Ring-shaped cake with colorful candied fruits on top

A ring-shaped Epiphany cake, decorated with candied fruits. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

6—Epiphany (Christian)

6—Theophany (Feast of the Epiphany) (Orthodox Christian)

6—Nativity of Christ (Armenian Orthodox)

7—Feast of the Nativity (Orthodox Christian)

10 –New Year (Mahayana Buddhist)

12—Baptism of the Lord Jesus (Christian)

13—Maghi (Sikh)

18—Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Christian)

19—World Religion Day (Baha’i)

20—Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

20—Timkat (Ethiopian Orthodox Christian)

25—Chinese New Year

27—World Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day

29—Vasant Panchami (Hindu)

FEBRUARY 2020

2—Candlemas / Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Christian)

2—Imbolc / Lughnassadh (Wicca / Pagan)

2—Groundhog Day

2—Feast of St. Brighid of Kildare (Celtic Christian)

2—Four Chaplains Sunday (Interfaith)

3—Setusban-sai (Shinto)

5—Chinese New Year (Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist)

8—Nirvana Day (Buddhist)

10—Tu B’Shevat (Jewish)

14—St. Valentine’s Day (Christian)

15—Nirvana Day (Buddhist, Jain)

17—Presidents’ Day

21—Maha Shivaratri (Hindu)

23—Meatfare Sunday / Transfiguration Sunday (Orthodox Christian)

25—Shrove Tuesday (Christian)

26—Intercalary Days begin (Ayyam-i-Ha) (Baha’i)

26—Ash Wednesday / Lent begins (Christian)

29—Leap Day

MARCH 2020

1—Intercalary Days end (Baha’i)

1—Cheesefare Sunday (Orthodox Christian)

2—Clean Monday / Great Lent begins (Orthodox Christian)

2—Nineteen Day Fast (Baha’i)

3—New Year (Hindu)

6—National Day of Unplugging

8—Orthodox Sunday (Orthodox Christian)

8—Daylight Saving Time begins

9—Magha Puja Day (Buddhist)

9—Sunset, Purim (Jewish)

9—Holi (Hindu)

10—Hola Mohalla (Sikh)

13—Birthday of L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology)

17—St. Patrick’s Day (Christian)

19—St. Joseph’s Day (Christian)

19—Lord’s Evening Meal (Jehovah’s Witness Christian)

20—Equinox

20—Ostara / Mabon (Wicca/Pagan)

20—Naw-Ruz (New Year) (Baha’i)

21—International Day of Nowruz

21—Naw-Ruz / Norooz (New Year) (Persian/Zoroastrian)

22—Lailat al Miraj (Islam)

25—Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Christian)

25—Ramayana (Hindu)

April 2020

2—Ramanavami (Hindu)

5—Palm Sunday (Christian)

8—Hanuman Jayanti (Hindu)

8—Sunset, Lailat al Bara’ah (Islam)

8—Sunset, Passover (Pesach) (Jewish)

9—New Year (Theravadin Buddhist)

9—Mahavir Jayanti (Jain)

9—Maundy Thursday (Christian)

10—Good Friday (Christian)

12—Easter (Christian)

12—Palm Sunday (Orthodox Christian)

13—Easter Monday

14—Baisakhi (Vaisakhi) (Sikh)

17—Holy Friday (Orthodox Christian)

18—Lazarus Saturday (Orthodox Christian)

19—Pascha (Easter) (Orthodox Christian)

20—First Day of Ridvan (Baha’i)

21—Palm Sunday (Orthodox Christian)

21—Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) (Jewish)

22—Earth Day

23—Sunset, Ramadan begins (Islam)

27—Mahavir Jayanti (Jain)

28—Yom HaZikaron (Jewish)

29—Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Jewish)

28—Ninth Day of Ridvan (Baha’i)

MAY 2020

1—Beltane / Samhain (Wicca / Pagan)

1—Twelfth Day of Ridvan (Baha’i)

5—Cinco de Mayo

7—Visakha Puja (Buddha Day) (Buddhist)

7—National Day of Prayer, U.S. (Interfaith)

10—Mother’s Day

12—Lag B’Omer (Jewish)

19—Laylat al Qadr (Islam)

21—Ascension of Jesus (Christian)

23—Declaration of the Bab (Baha’i)

23—Sunset, Eid al-Fitr (Islam)

25—Memorial Day

28—Sunset, Shavuot (Jewish)

28—Ascension of Baha’u’llah (Baha’i)

29—Ascension of Jesus (Orthodox Christian)

31—Pentecost (Christian)

JUNE 2020

7—Pentecost (Orthodox Christian)

7—Trinity Sunday (Christian)

9—St. Columba of Iona (Celtic Christian)

11—Corpus Christi (Catholic Christian)

14—All Saints (Orthodox Christian)

19—Sacred Heart of Jesus (Catholic Christian)

19—New Church Day (Swedenborgian Christian)

19—Juneteenth

21—Father’s Day

21—Solstice

21—Litha / Yule (Wicca / Pagan)

JULY 2020

4—Independence Day

5—Asalha Puja Day (Buddhist)

9—Martyrdom of the Bab (Baha’i)

9—The Three Weeks begins (Jewish)

23—Crowing of Haile Selassi I (Rastafarian)

24—Pioneer Day (Mormon Christian)

28—Hajj (Islam)

29—Sunset, Waqf al Arafa (Islam)

30—Tisha B’Av (Jewish)

30—Sunset, Eid al-Adha (Islam)

AUGUST 2020

1—Lammas (Christian)

1—Lughnassadh / Imbolc) (Wicca / Pagan)

1—Fast in Honor of Holy Mother of Jesus (Orthodox Christian)

3—Raksha Bandhan (Hindu)

6—Transfiguration of the Lord (Orthodox Christian)

9—World Indigenous Peoples’ Day

11—Krishna Janmashtami (Hindu)

13—Obon (Ullambana) (Buddhist/Shinto)

15—Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Catholic Christian)

15—Dormition of the Theotokos (Orthodox Christian)

19—Sunset, Hijra (New Year) (Islam)

22—Ganesh Chaturthi (Hindu)

29—Beheading of St. John the Baptist (Christian)

28—Sunset, Ashura (Islam)

SEPTEMBER  2020

1—Ecclesiastical year begins (Orthodox Christian)

7—Labor Day

8—Nativity of Virgin Mary (Christian)

11—Patriot Day

14—Elevation of the Life Giving Cross (Holy Cross) (Christian)

18—Sunset, Rosh Hashanah (Jewish)

21—Paryushan Parva (Jain)

23—Equinox

23—Mabon / Ostara (Wicca / Pagan)

27—Meskel (Ethiopian Orthodox Christian)

27—Sunset, Yom Kippur (Jewish)

29—Michael and All Angels (Christian)

OCTOBER 2020

2—Sunset, Sukkot (Jewish)

4—St. Francis Day (Blessing of the Animals) (Catholic Christian)

9—Sunset, Shemini Atzeret (Jewish)

10—Sunset, Simchat Torah (Jewish)

12—Thanksgiving (Canada) (Interfaith)

12—Columbus Day

12—Indigenous People’s Day

17—Navaratri (Hindu)

18—St. Luke, Apostle and Evangelist (Christian)

18—Birth of the Bab (Baha’i)

19—Birth of Baha’u’llah (Baha’i)

22—Christ the King (Christian)

25—Reformation Day (Protestant Christian)

25—Dasara (Hindu)

29—Reformation Day (Protestant Christian)

28—Sunset, Mawlid an Nabi (Islam)

31—All Hallows Eve (Christian)

NOVEMBER   2020

1—Daylight Saving Time ends

1—All Saints Day (Christian)

1—Samhain / Beltane (Wicca / Pagan)

2—All Souls Day (Catholic Christian)

11—Veterans Day

13—Jain New Year (Jain)

14—Diwali (Deepavali) (Hindu / Sikh / Jain)

15—Nativity Fast begins (Orthodox Christian)

22—Christ the King (Christian)

25—Day of the Covenant (Baha’i)

26—Thanksgiving (U.S.) (Interfaith)

27—Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha (Baha’i)

29—Advent begins (Christian)

DECEMBER 2020

6—St. Nicholas Day (Christian)

7—Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

8—Bodhi Day (Rohatsu) (Buddhist)

8—Immaculate Conception of Mary (Catholic Christian)

10—Sunset, Hanukkah (Jewish)

12—Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Catholic Christian)

16—Posadas Navidenas (Hispanic Christian)

21—Solstice

21—Yule / Litha (Wicca / Pagan)

24—Christmas Eve (Christian)

25—Christmas (Christian)

25—Feast of the Nativity (Orthodox Christian)

26—Zarathosht Diso (Death of Prophet Zarathushtra) (Zoroastrian)

26—St. Stephen’s Day (Christian)

27—Holy Family (Catholic Christian)

28—Holy Innocents (Christian)

31—Watch Night (Christian)

 

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NOTE TO READERS

We continue to update this list, month by month. As you read the list, you may discover we have missed a fascinating observance or detail. If so, please email us at [email protected].

Pioneer Day: Utahns join Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in celebration

PIONEER DAY is a longstanding tradition. This photo was taken about 1912 of a Pioneer Day re-enactment of the 1847 arrival by wagon train. Later, someone typed a caption on the front of the card. The image now is part of the Library of Congress archives, available for public use.

PIONEER DAY is a longstanding tradition. This photo was taken about 1912 of a Pioneer Day re-enactment of the 1847 arrival by wagon train. Later, someone typed a caption on the front of the card. The image now is part of the Library of Congress archives, available for public use.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 24: Don your bonnet and lace up your boots—it’s Pioneer Day in Utah, and a celebration for Mormons nationwide. On this date in 1847, Mormon pioneers settled into the Salt Lake Valley to escape religious persecution. After being forced from their home in Nauvoo, Illinois, the pilgrims embarked on a thousand-mile journey to form a new settlement. Portions of the Mormon Trail are reenacted each year in Utah, and an elaborate Days of ’47 festival envelops the entire city of Salt Lake each July. (Check out photos here.) If you’re traveling through Utah at this time of year, you’re in for a treat!

In the final months before their journey West, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could feel the growing tension. They were no longer welcome in Nauvoo, Illinois, and when their founder—prophet Joseph Smith—was murdered on June 27, 1844, something had to be done. The Mormons left their settlement in Nauvoo for a new homeland, and after a treacherous journey, the surviving pilgrims crossed into Salt Lake City on July 24. (Find resources, historical photographs and more with links from the state of Utah.) The first statewide Pioneer Day celebration was held a decade later, in 1857, and July 24 remains a state holiday in Utah to this day.

A PIONEER ERA CELEBRATION:
FROM MORMONS TO AN INTERTRIBAL POWWOW

Old man with white beard in pink shirt with suspenders and white cowboy hat

Many participants reenact a portion of the Mormon trail each year near July 24, trekking several miles to make the grand entrance into Salt Lake City by handcart. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

For Utahns, the Days of ’47 festival commemorates the entire region’s culture and history—not just those of the Mormon pioneers. (The pioneer era is considered to have ended in 1869 with the arrival of the transcontinental railroad.) Significant settlers in Utah’s pioneer history are celebrated, an Intertribal Powwow lights up Liberty Park in Salt Lake City and parades, fireworks and rodeos fill the streets and grounds of Salt Lake in the days surrounding July 24.

THE DAYS OF ’47

The height of Mormon activities is the grand performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which this year was held last Saturday and whose venue allowed 21,000 attendees to hear featured hip-hop violinist Lindsey Stirling and pop-opera tenor Nathan Pacheco, along with the famed choir. (The Salt Lake Tribune had the story.) Organizers say they “consciously chose these two artists to appeal to a younger generation, and younger people responded eagerly. Our ticket supply disappeared before our eyes.”

Today, families that camped out along the parade route last night can awaken to the parade events. (The Deseret News reports.) The Days of ’47 Youth Parade—the largest youth parade in the country—kicked off the Days of ’47 festivities on July 20, with more than 5,000 participants: marching bands, clowns, Boy Scouts of America and wards and stakes from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Ready for some pioneer fun at home? Try out these creative pioneer crafts for kids, courtesy of the Crafty Crow.

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(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering spirituality, religion, interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)