Appalachia Christmas Music

Breaking up Christmas with The Pressley Girls

breaking up christmas with the pressley girls

The Pressley Girls – Morning Song at the JCCFS

In the early 1900s, folks living in the mountains of North Carolina lengthened the holiday season by celebrating the two weeks following Christmas. They called it Breaking Up Christmas.

Residents in the community would host a series of house parties. Each night the party would be held in a different home and the musicians and party goers would follow the route merry making until the wee hours of the morning.

Folks hosting the party would clear the rooms of their house to make room for dancing. Sometimes the only space left for the musicians to play was standing in the door way. The days following Christmas can feel empty which makes it easy to see why breaking up Christmas became a popular tradition in certain areas.

I had never heard of the celebration until I stumbled upon it as I was researching Christmas traditions in Appalachia back when I first started the Blind Pig and The Acorn. Since traditional music and dance have played a huge role in my life I was immediately drawn to the idea of breaking up Christmas.

The Christmas holiday always offers up more opportunities than usual for music making around the Blind Pig house. While we haven’t been traveling the party-route we have been enjoying some mighty fine music sessions.

Now that the nephews live a far piece away we always try to gang up and play whenever they come home. Mandolin man was the only one that got to come home for Christmas this year. We had a great day of music making with him and wished his brother could have been there as well.

The girls have also made real progress on their first cd. The tracks for two more songs have been laid down this week and we are very excited about that music.

My dream Breaking up Christmas Party would be to travel around to each of your homes and make music till you threw us out shouting out the location of the next party on the route as we packed up the car. Since I can’t make that happen-I’ll share a video from The Pressley Girls that was filmed the day before Christmas.

I hope you enjoyed the song! It’s another original composed by Chitter titled Ruby in the Kitchen. She wrote it about our dog Ruby Sue who searches through the kitchen floor looking for crumbs in a very amusing manner.


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  • Reply
    June Jolley
    January 3, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    Nice little tune you’ve got there girls!

  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    January 2, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Loved this tune! My grand-baby is named Ruby and she toddles around the kitchen!
    Happy New Year!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    Oh, how I wish you could! Thanks for the video 😉
    Happy New Year to all!

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    December 31, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    What a lovely tradition. The days following Christmas and New Years can seem so bleak.
    Up north we had a tradition of visiting relatives homes after Christmas to see their decorated homes and what they’d gotten for Christmas. I wonder if anyone does that up there anymore.
    Praying for everyone’s safety this night, and that the year 2017 is the best one any of us has had yet.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    I had a little dog just like Ruby Sue, only Little Bit was a Boy dog. Chitter and Chatter carried that thing around when they were over here and Little Bit really soaked that up.
    When I came to work one morning, Little Bit was hiding behind some bushes at my shop, someone had set him out. A little girl next door wanted to take him home with her, so I opened a can of Vienna Sausages and handed it to her. In a few minutes the little dog came out and began eating from her hand and she took it home. Little Bit bit the daddy and he wanted me to have it back, so that’s how he came to be “Little Bit”. He trusted me for about another 8 years before he died. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 31, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    Did you know that Miss Chitter’s fiddle is waisted? The part that she has her nose stuck in is one side of the waist. Miss Chatter’s guitar is waisted, too.
    I take back the comment I made about Chitter’s new song being downright good. After reviewing it a few more times I found it to be downright excellent.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    December 31, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    Some of my favorite memories of my sister, Trina Hannah, were sitting in her house in Maggie Valley (first on Rabbit Skin and later on Hannah Hill) listening to the gaggle of musicians who had come to play (and drink a little), and play some more. I am sure that some of these events occurred at Christmas time since that is one of the times I always wanted to visit. Players would come from all over and spend hours calling out tunes and challenging each other to keep playing. At times it seemed the floor would collapse from the stomping and dancing. Thanks for giving this happiness a name.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    December 31, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Wish yall could come by. I’d cook up some really fattening snacks!! Seems we’ve had trouble getting in the spirit this year. My mother in law ( she’s 92) was talking about Christmases gone by when there was visiting every night at different families and how much she missed the ones who have gone on as we all do. I think not having any little ones around takes some of the sparkle off.
    My brothers all play and one of them went every Christmas to see all my elderly aunts and our oldest friend and played and sang for them and took them a present. They used to play at Mama’s on Christmas but sadly, my brothers can’t play together anymore because they all get into conflict with each other over the music–just another family quarrel. Yall seem to have so much fun with your music–such a blessing and your girls have become beautiful young women!
    I’ve been thinking of you and your mama and all –I know it’s been a hard time in so many ways. You give me a lot of joy every day, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    December 31, 2016 at 11:29 am

    Beautiful, Tipper. Never heard of breaking down Christmas but I did know my uncles would clear out a room in their house and they would make music and all the neighbors would come. I think that would be a wonderful way to enjoy some time after Christmas or before. I love the girls giggles!!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 31, 2016 at 10:50 am

    Now that is just downright good!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 31, 2016 at 10:25 am

    I loved Chitter’s new song. Easy to envision Ruby, with nose to the floor looking all around for tidbits of tasty morsels. If one crumb happens to hide and not swept up or seen in a day or so, the better a dog loves it! HA
    Tis better to “break up Christmas” for a couple of weeks than to go into the “after Christmas blues”!
    Loved this post this morning….whoops, I’m gone to the window…back now, I’ve got to check the weather forecast. Sounds and looks like sleet here under the plateau with a speck of white here and there. I thought we were supposed to warm up today.
    Happy New Year’s Eve Tipper and family!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2016 at 10:24 am

    What a wonderful way to add cheer and fun to the homes of friends and families. I like the idea. Oh, I really enjoyed the music for today!
    Happy and healthy new year to all, especially Tipper and family!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2016 at 10:20 am

    What a great song! I would love to be on the party route and have the BP Gang play in our house if this really could happen. What a great time that would be!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2016 at 10:02 am

    The more I learn the more I realize folks back then knew how to enjoy life. Seems like all I get done is cleaning up after Christmas preparing for the next holiday. I am certain those girls manage to make anything pleasurable with their music and spontaneous giggles.
    Meanwhile I have to get a good luck meal ready. Fried cabbage will be the main fare. Black eyed peas also, but I like to cheat and freeze them while they are in green snap stage to cook. Pretty music from pretty girls.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Well you and yours would be more than welcome here! And now that I know you have a special musical friend in Massachusetts, I wonder if maybe one day you might be in my neck of the woods 🙂

  • Reply
    December 31, 2016 at 8:56 am

    Cute! I can just see that little puppy dog , tail a twitching, nosing around under the table, between people’s feet, and under the edge of the cabinets just seeing what she could find with a pause (paws?) or two to give y’all the big eye with a little begging!

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    December 31, 2016 at 8:53 am

    That was great. The kids loved the subject matter. Our Dog Carlos is a proficient swarmer in the kitchen, so we get it!
    I love the idea of breaking down Christmas. The concept is familiar to me, but the name isn’t.
    Tipper, we here at the Karshner home would be glad to have you stop by for a reel. Alex would be tickled to death!
    Happy New Year to all my friends and neighbors in this virtual Appalachian community! Thanks to you Tipper for putting this party together.

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