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!