Heritage Profiles of Mountain People

Christmas in Appalachia 1938

Aunt Hazel

Aunt Hazel 

My Great Aunt, Hazel Currie, recently shared a Christmas memory with me-an Appalachian Christmas memory.

The first Christmas I can recall clearly was in 1938. We lived in Cherokee County, NC along the Hiawasse River on the Harshaw Farm, where my Poppa was a sharecropper.

I remember Poppa bringing in a pine tree he’d cut in the woods-he’d even found one with pine cones-already decorated by nature. 

My step mother, Carrie, allowed us children to use flour and water to mix up a paste to make chains of paper. In those days, flour was hard to come by- it still pleases me to know she wanted us to enjoy the act of decorating enough to allow us to use her flour. We also drew pictures of trees and stars and cut them out-threading a string through the paper for hanging on the tree.

We heard the John C. Campbell Folk School was having a Christmas party for children. The road to the school went along by the side of the river-it was about 3 miles in distance. I remember my step siblings, Mary Jo, Francis, Frank, Wayne, and I walked to the party. I can still see the beauty in my mind’s eye. The school had decorated a huge Christmas tree and they had a little play about the nativity-with Mary and Joseph and a little crib for baby Jesus. I sat there lost in wonder-trying to take in every detail so I could relive the magic over and over.

After the play, Santa Claus arrived. I’d never seen Santa before and could hardly believe he was there. Santa carried a toe sack instead of a fancy bag-and in the toe sack were dozens of small brown bags full of the prettiest hard candies I have ever seen. Santa handed out the little brown bags chug full of candy tied at the top with a string. To say we were happy doesn’t do justice to the emotion we felt.

On the walk back home, I wanted to talk about the play and go over every detail of the party, but the other kids were so happy they laughed the entire way home not wanting to talk-just wanting to celebrate.

After reaching home, I shared a piece of candy with Poppa and Carrie then I hid the rest-wanting to savor every piece of happiness I’d received from the party. The other kids soon ate their candy-but they never did find my hiding place!

Tipper

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    Malcolm Hampton Burgess,Jr.
    December 29, 2008 at 11:00 am

    This is my Aunt Hazel, and I loved the story , altho I had never heard this one , She has told us lots more and we treasure each of them . We spent several Christmas holidays with Aunt Hazel and her kids , in fact every time my Dad lost his job back in those days we would most of the time stay there till a new one can thru.I learned a lot of what family is all about from my Aunt Hazel,I still stay in touch with her ,even tho I live in Thailand. In fact I remember when Sherry was five and she got her cowgirl outfit for Christmas and my Dad gave her the nick name Boot Hill that is what I still call her. What wonderful memories I personaly have of my Aunt Hazel.
    If you read this post I LOVE YOU Malcolm
    Malcolm

  • Reply
    Helen G.
    December 21, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Aunt Hazel, I just want to thank you for your remembrance. Though I was born and raised in a city, the church we went to when we were little always had a Christmas service especially for the kids and at the end Santa would come and hand out little bags tied up with a string, too. Usually had an apple, an orange, some nuts of all kinds, and wonderful chunks of Christmas ribbon candy.
    I hope you have many more stories to share with your family and, perhaps with us.
    A very Merry Christmas to you, and a peaceful and joyous time to share the reason for the season with everyone.
    Helen

  • Reply
    Denese
    December 20, 2008 at 9:21 am

    What a lovely remembrance. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  • Reply
    Jennifer in OR
    December 20, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Wonderful story!! Now it’s recorded for the rest of the family-what a gift!

  • Reply
    trisha too
    December 20, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Wonderful story.
    (I had a great-aunt Hazel, too!)

  • Reply
    Amy @ parkcitygirlq
    December 19, 2008 at 8:11 am

    What a special memory! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Reply
    Valarie Lea
    December 18, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    I truly wish that Christmas was like that again. Not so busy and stressful. 🙂

  • Reply
    Kathleen
    December 18, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Just dropped back by to wish you a Merry Christmas and many blessings for the new year! blessings, Kathleen

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    December 18, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Loved your Aunt’s story. When my parents emigrated here from Europe, they struggled early on, what with six children, so I can definitely relate to her feelings wanting to savor everything!
    We have so much now; I yearn for the simpler times.
    The video was inviting. And there were your paintings! Congratulations and good luck, Tipper! A beautiful shop; the kind you can only find in the country. And your family playing!
    Just so warming! A beautiful post, Tipper! Thank you! :))

  • Reply
    Carolyn A.
    December 18, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Thanks Hazel! Always great to hear stories of back home in the early years, especially about how Christmas was made special by the simplest things.
    Tipper, Jackie looks so much like Sister S it’s unreal. Sounds almost like her too. Loved the guys playing and singing while the decorations were being put up and shown. Noticed your artwork as soon as Jackie came on screen. I’m glad I got to see it all.
    The collage at the beginning just made this post a great one too. You always share the best pictures. xxoo

  • Reply
    Shirley
    December 18, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Iloved Aunt Hazel’s memories. Sounds like she had a great childhood.

  • Reply
    warren
    December 18, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Excellent! A simple Christmas and one of the best ones ever too I bet!
    We should all take a lesson from it!

  • Reply
    The Texican
    December 18, 2008 at 10:13 am

    I remember when the smallest things seemed to be special. I long to return to those simpler days of yesteryear. Thanks for sharing your memories with us. Thank Pap and Paul for the great renditions of the Carols. I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas. Pappy

  • Reply
    yolanda
    December 18, 2008 at 6:17 am

    I loved reading this. I made me think of the way my grandparents grew up.

  • Reply
    Egghead
    December 18, 2008 at 6:17 am

    I enjoyed your aunts memories. It reminds me that I was going to make old fashioned clove rock candy. I better get on it.

  • Reply
    Julie at Elisharose
    December 18, 2008 at 6:17 am

    What a lovely story. So much is missed in our Christmases of today with so much all the time.

  • Reply
    Mary
    December 18, 2008 at 6:17 am

    Tipper,
    My mother’s memories of Christmas would have been very similar to your aunt’s. I enjoyed the story. Thanks so much for sharing.
    Christmas blessings,
    Mary

  • Reply
    Just Jackie
    December 18, 2008 at 6:17 am

    Loved the story. It’s easy to forget what it was like around here just a generation or so ago. Just think how we would complain if we had to walk three miles to anything. Hope to hear more of your aunt’s stories.

  • Reply
    City Mouse/Country House
    December 18, 2008 at 6:17 am

    It’s amazing how many neat stories we hear at this time of year about wonderful holidays past, even when families didn’t have much money. Mine is much the same. Wonderful story!

  • Reply
    Becky
    December 18, 2008 at 6:17 am

    I loved the story, Aunt Hazel!
    It reminds me of stories told by my Grandmother.
    We always gotta hide our stash.
    My son was bad about eating my daughters, so she learned some pretty good hiding places.

  • Reply
    Nancy Simpson
    December 18, 2008 at 6:17 am

    I did enjoy Hazel Currie’s story and I could see each scene- the children walking along the river and the party. The folk school is like a second home to me.
    Do you know, they still decorate and still have the Children’s Christmas Party every year?

  • Reply
    SandyCarlson
    December 18, 2008 at 6:17 am

    I didn’t know flour was hard to come by, though I know it is getting expensive now. Thanks for this wonderful story.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    December 18, 2008 at 6:17 am

    Tipper, thank you for adding so much pleasure to everyone’s Christmas. Merry Christmas.

  • Reply
    Kathleen
    December 17, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Just loved your words and pictures. It’s not Christmas without hard candy. I can’t find the kind of candy that used to be so pretty and flavorful at Christmas time anymore. Wish I could find really good ribbon candy. So enjoyed visiting. Blessings, Kathleen

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    December 17, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Tipper: What a neat story, I thought you were writing it and thought Tipper meesed up the 1938 date. I knew you weren’t that old but your aunt could be. At least I got a good shock for the day.

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