Today, most Thanksgiving Day celebrations revolve around camping out for retail super sales, watching football games on the television and the traditional turkey meal that brings families together around one table. While family gatherings and feasts were an important part of long ago Thanksgiving Day observances in Napa County, social events including the 1882 Thanksgiving masquerade ball were given equal importance.
The Napa County Reporter newspaper provided a lengthy review of the 1882 event, reporting: “The grand masquerade ball given at the Opera House last evening under the auspices of the Rebekah degree of the I.O.O.F., was the chief event of Thanksgiving Day in Napa.”
The article continued, “For weeks the amusement loving portion of the community has been looking eagerly forward to the anticipated pleasures of the occasion, and the ladies having the matter in charge exerted every effort to make the affair a social success. It is unnecessary to say the former were not disappointed in their expectations, nor that the latter have just cause for self congratulation.”
According to the newspaper, by 8 p.m. more than 200 spectators had packed the Opera House gallery. Considering how small that gallery balcony is, it must have been very cramped that night. However, despite those tight quarters, their mood was jovial and bright especially when the festivities began at 8:30 p.m.
The Reporter wrote, “with the first strike of the band’s music, the grotesque figures of the maskers filed out of the dressing rooms to participate in the grand march...and as they winded their way through the beautiful and entangling figures of the march, presented a grand sight of beauty and compounded merry foolishness.”
Throughout the pageant of masked merriment, those in normal evening attire were required to stay in the crowded balcony area as passive observers. More than likely they were ready for the next phase of the festivities to begin. But, according to the newspaper, they had to be patient and wait for quite a while before they could finally enter the dance floor.
It said, “After the grand march, the maskers engaged in a merry dance, and as they glided through the intricate figures of the quadrille, or whirled around the mazy waltz, presented a rare spectacle of dazzling beauty and brilliance. At a little after 11 o’clock ( about two-and-one-half hours after the march and all had begun) the order was given for unmasking and the revelations then made afforded much merriment, and in many cases provoked undisguised surprise. After this, the spectators were allowed to take to the floor, (around midnight and after standing for three-and-one-half hours), and the merry dance went on ‘till near the break of dawn.”
As for those who provided the necessary melodies, the Reporter said, “Excellent music, consisting of four pieces, was furnished by Robert Peddie.” Another essential accompaniment to the ball was the food needed to keep the attendees energized.
The Reporter added, “During the evening refreshments consisting of coffee, coldmeats, pastry, etc., were served under the stage, under the supervision of Mr. P. Wolf, the genial proprietor of the Metropolitan Restaurant.”
In concluding its coverage of the grand Thanksgiving Day masquerade ball of 1882, the Reporter was generous in its compliments. “Too much praise cannot be given to the ladies for the successful manner in which the details of the affair were carried out.”
Returning to the present day, I wish you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving.