Appalachia Christmas

Christmas in the Old Days

Dorie woman of the mountains

I’ve read lots of books about Appalachia. One of the ones that ring the truest to me isย Dorie Woman of the Mountains written by Florence Cope Bush. The book was first published in 1992 and has been published at least 7 times since then if not more. In the introduction Florence Cope Bush writes

Dorie: Woman of the Mountains was not written with the idea that it would ever be published. I wrote it as a gift to my daughter, my mother, and myself. The manuscript was in my possession for fifteen years before a friend talked me into letting him publish two thousand copies in paperback for local distribution.”

The book is a biography about Bush’s mother, Dorie. The story spans the years between 1898 and 1942 and is set primarily in the Smoky Mountains.

Dorie’s husband, Fred, had employment in the logging boom that went on in the early 1900s in the Smoky Mountains. The life and culture of logging weaves its way throughout the book as does the culture and heritage of Appalachia.

Here are a few quotes from the book related to the Christmas season:

“Snow fell several times after Thanksgiving, but the real winter weather didn’t come until after Christmas. Usually, fair weather held long enough for Pa to hunt fresh meat for Christmas dinner-squirrel, quail, or perhaps a wild turkey.”

“Christmas in the mountains was bleak and uneventful. Sometimes the day passed without us being aware it was holiday season. We had no Santa Claus or Christmas tree. Since our Christmas in Spartanburg, Ma had let us hang up our stockings. That was as far as she’d let us go with our celebration. When we did hang up our stockings, we’d get an orange and a piece of candy-never anything to play with.”

“The mountain people still kept the ancient customs of the native lands. Many highlanders disapproved of the “new” Christmas observed on December 25. In Scotland and Ireland, the day of Christmas was January 5-a day of solemn celebration.”

“In a strange contradiction, while shunning all symbolic trappings of Christmas Day, they saw nothing wrong with noisemaking. The men and boys provided the noise for the celebration. They’d go into the woods and shoot their guns at nothing at all. All day long shots echoed from one mountain to another. “


I hope you enjoyed the excerpts from one of my favorite books about the southern mountains of Appalachia. Be on the lookout for some Christmas folklore from the book over the coming weeks.


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  • Reply
    December 5, 2016 at 11:42 am

    I did write a comment when this post came out. I don’t see it here though, so I’ll do another. I wrote that my grandparents were cooks in logging camps and my Dad left home at 14 to work in logging. I enjoyed their stories so I’m sure I would enjoy the book.

  • Reply
    larry griffith
    December 5, 2016 at 9:19 am

    Sounds like a great book.Give me a choice of reading on a computer or a book and I’ll take the book ever time.

  • Reply
    December 5, 2016 at 7:37 am

    I never won anything in my whole life. I sure hope my luck is about to change . Happy Holidays to all . I might look like I’m doing nothing. But in my head I’m quite busy.

  • Reply
    marshall reagan
    December 4, 2016 at 5:07 am

    That sound like my kind of book to read as my family is from White Oaks Flat Tennessee (Gatlinburg),Cherokee & Andrews N.C.
    How much are the books ?

  • Reply
    jill meramble
    December 4, 2016 at 1:05 am

    Sounds like a great read! Love reading about the old days and old ways.

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    December 3, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Would love the book. Our children/grandkids don’t have any idea of life as it used to be. Everything that they have is electronic and expensive.

  • Reply
    December 3, 2016 at 1:32 am

    This book has been on my Amazon wish list since the first time you wrote about it, Tipper!

  • Reply
    December 2, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    I would love to win a copy of this book. Books are my favorite thing to buy on any of my travel adventures. Very heavy in your luggage or carry-on, but wonderful to read and re- read when you are back home. My mother’s people left KY about 1904 to come to WI and work in the lumber camps and sawmills. The first year they lived in a train car, as there weren’t enough houses available. Ma, Pa and 9 young children. Wow. Tough people. Bless your memory, Frank and Caroline Sparks.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    I would love the book and I must get it one way or another! If Charline wins it, she will share it with me!

  • Reply
    Sandy Quandt
    December 2, 2016 at 9:14 am

    What a lovely book. Thanks for the opportunity to own it and read of the rich history, My dad’s family was from Loyall, KY, but I don’t know as much about them as I wish I did. This book would help fill in some gaps.

  • Reply
    Sheila Weaver
    December 2, 2016 at 8:24 am

    I so loved the quote from “Woman of the Mountains” it reminded me of the excitement as a child when I to placed one of my best stockings out to be filled. We always had an orange and an apple with walnuts, and hard candies. Singing, and hearing the story of Jesus’s birth was a Christmas event. So different from these days. I would love to find this book to give as a gift to my boys so they could share it with my grandchildren. I also love your music you share. Can I get these Christmas songs on a CD.
    Thank you so much Tipper for your blog and all the special stories you share.

  • Reply
    Janice Stout
    December 2, 2016 at 6:17 am

    As I read about this book, it made me think of my maternal Grandmother. She lived to be 96 and would have been a wife and mother during the time frame of the book. I want to gift my mother (her daughter) with this book for Christmas.

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    December 2, 2016 at 12:08 am

    I love reading about old time country doings, maybe because I was a part of them for a little while until the city began encroaching upon our neck of the woods.
    I pray everyone in the GA/NC/TN mountains reading this is safe. We’ve heard some heartbreaking stories coming out of those hills, and I pray the worst of it is over.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    December 1, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    Ahhh … cap busters. Christmas was satisfied when I got a cap buster; a Roy Rogers, a Gene Autry, a Whip Wilson or Lash Larue or a Bob Steele, any real cowboy’s model would satisfy. And, a whole package of caps. Thank you, Bill Burnette, for naming the quintessential present for a boy. And the other fulfilment: oranges, apples, pecans, mixed nuts. Those were the ingredients of Christmas.
    But above all else, the birthday celebration for Jesus. We were not Catholic but we stayed up every Christmas Eve to watch the Midnight Mass which was always broadcast on that wonderful new device, television. We did not have to be reminded that the day was first and foremost Jesus’ birthday.
    Lord, I miss my Mom and Dad and being with my brothers and sisters at Christmas.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    A lovely reading. Thanks. Heard of this book but never had the chance to read it.

  • Reply
    Barbara Gantt
    December 1, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    This sounds like a wonderful book. I love reading the history for the mountains. I try to pass these stories on to my children. Barbara

  • Reply
    Lorraine Adams
    December 1, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    I read the excerpt while listening to the click click click of my wood stove heating up and its got me ready for the winter snow. Gives you a warm fuzzy feeling.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    It sounds like a great story! I love biographies about the mountains and the old ways!

  • Reply
    December 1, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    This seems a wonderful book, and your several mentions of it keep reminding me I need to read it! I descend from a logging family from that era.

  • Reply
    Gloria Strother
    December 1, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Loved the excerpt, I would love to get this book for my mother. I think would enjoy it so.

  • Reply
    Jeanie Ahrens
    December 1, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    You have written about this book before and every time you do, I wish I could read the entire book. I’d love to have my own copy.

  • Reply
    Hazel R. Carr
    December 1, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    For people who do not have a copy of the book, you may try your local library. If a copy is not there, ask to see if they could get a copy from ILL. I have just done that.
    Hazel R. Carr, West Palm Beach, FL

  • Reply
    December 1, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    What a lovely book. Memories of Christmas in my childhood home come flowing back. My Daddy never failed to have a flowered bowl on the table on Christmas morning , filled with 3 oranges ,3 apples,a pomegranate for me, and pecans in the shell. He kept a piece of red flannel to set the bowl on. He said it made the place more “Christmassy”. He grew up in a sharecropper home of nine childrenduring the Depression . To have fruit and nuts on the table was a wonderous thing for him and he was proud to provide them for our home at Christmas. To this day, Christmas table at my house must have a bowl of oranges, apples and pecans. The simple joys of life are the very best ones. Thanks, Daddy.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 1, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    I already own the book. I can honestly say it is the best book I ever read. I bought it on Amazon for about $20. I usually don’t buy books unless I can read parts beforehand or it comes highly recommended by a trusted friend. My friend M J Pressley provided both the preview and the recommendation. I would like to pass the recommendation on to all of you. If you don’t win it, buy it! If you are at all interested in Appalachian culture, it will be the best $20.00 you ever spent.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    This book sounds like something I would enjoy, so I appreciate writing and hoping to be selected. I really miss some of the old traditions; sometimes I think people have lost the true meaning of Christmas, friendship, and etc. so much of our lives is commercialized and gotta haves.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    I enjoyed reading the excerpt about Dorie, Woman of the Mountains, and I felt especially close to Bill Burnett’s comment. …Ken

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    December 1, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    My father was born in 1898 and lived the life as is described in this book. He lied his age to get on the railroad and they did not catch up to his lie til Social Security was started and he had to prove his age.
    He was one of 9 kids and the first to go to work away from the family business which was barn building and farming.
    His job made things better for his whole family. There are many barns left in Perry County PA that were built by my grandfather.
    By the time I was born in 1939 Dad had worked his way up to building and bridge inspector of the whole Philadelphia Division.
    He did not miss a day of work for 35 years. He was given a pin with a ruby in it which I have.
    I come from sturdy stock.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    When I read the accounts of our forefathers I am humbled and thank the Lord for having born me in today’s world ๐Ÿ™‚ It sure does make me appreciate all the more the life I have today.
    Thank you for all the gifts you so freely share, especially your words, music and joy ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply
    harry adams
    December 1, 2016 at 11:48 am

    This reminded me of a book I found in a yard sale many years ago, “My Life in the Maine Woods” by Annette Jackson. Set in the 30’s, it was her story surviving in the backwoods of Maine. I can not fathom what life was like 100 years ago or during the depression for most people in the country. I grew up in South Carolina in the 50s and 60s and remember those as hard times and we had electricity. My brother and I had to pump water from the well with a hand pump and I can still remember getting lighter’d knots for the wash pot.
    These books put our lives in perspective, but I wonder if younger generations will ever read or care about what our ancestors had to go through. I know I didn’t spend enough time with my grandfather to understand what he had to do to survive.
    Thanks for the blog.

  • Reply
    Janis Sullivan (Jan)
    December 1, 2016 at 11:24 am

    I grew up around the Smokies. My mom talked often about getting an orange for Christmas, and how special that was. People celebrated old and new Christmas, Mention please how one can get Dorie, Woman of the Mountains. I cannot seem to find a copy.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2016 at 10:48 am

    Stories of heartfelt, true to the event acknowledgments and celebrations are needed these days as we get overwhelmed with the commercialism, the “romanticism”, and the artificial glitz and glamour of holidays which mean so much more.

  • Reply
    Sandy Michelsen
    December 1, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Growing up in Virginia in the 40’s until the 80’s, my grandfather had some interesting folk remedies….which were laughed at. The rest of the family didn’t talk about anything like that, The few stories I heard were fascinating to me. Then we moved out west and have learned to gather wild plants and make our own “medicinals”. I would love to know more about my heredity and old ways of the Scotch/Irish.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    December 1, 2016 at 10:46 am

    Sadly we have lost the meaning of Christmas, it has been commercialized until children see it as just a day to get many gifts. I watch my Grandchildren open piles of gifts and push each one aside to grab the next and remember as a child when I was delighted to receive one gift such as a toy Dump Truck or a Cap Buster Pistol. Even with few gifts we were so much more fortunate than our parents and the generations before them. I look back now at my father’s family and realize how hard his mother had after his father was killed in a logging accident when he was five leaving my Grandmother a widow with three boys to raise through the depression. Each of us has a desire to make life better for our children than we had it but I fear we have done them a disservice by doing this. We see the results of this in many today who have lost the pride of accomplishment and the value of hard work. So many think the world owes them a living and have become dependent on the labor of others. In Dorie I see my Grandparents and would love to read the book.

  • Reply
    Jerry Finley
    December 1, 2016 at 10:31 am

    This sounds like a very good book. Your excerpts tend to bring back several memories from my early childhood, We did not have a lot of toys for Christmas–but those few nuts, oranges, etc. from the stocking were “SPECIAL”. Somehow, I think I would like to return to those days .

  • Reply
    Chuck Howell
    December 1, 2016 at 10:22 am

    Thanks Tipper, I’m gonna buy the book for myself right away. I guess my family roots in North Carolina go way back. My Mother was born in Oconoluftee in 1904. My Dad was born in Daybook, near Burnsville same year. She became a local Schoolteacher and he a logger in the Smokey Mountains, now the Park. My mother was a Cordell with Bradley, Hughes, Connor, roots. My Dad was a Howell with Renfro, & Honeycutt roots. My Grandfather, Robert Vance Howell and my Grandmother Polly Renfro Howell lived in Robbinsville when I was a kid. Grandaddy Frank Cordell lived in the Park till he died & is buried there. My Mother’s Mother Li;lie Bradley Cordell & her mother Sarah (Hughes, Bradley later remarried Parris) is also buried in the Bradley Cemetary near the Park entrance. Don’t really know why I’m sharing this, but it seems important at Christmas to reminisce. I got a big California Orange, Nuts & hard candy in my stocking as well. i was born in West Virginia where my parents eloped to in 1928. We share a rich Appalachian heritage. Why are we a “Proud Bunch?” If you have to ask, you wouldn’t get it, or so I tell my California friends. Thanks again Charles Emory Howell….Chuck

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    December 1, 2016 at 10:20 am

    What a lovely description of “the good old days.” When I was a little girl, my mother told me that, when she was a child, the ONLY time they ever had oranges in Oklahoma was at Christmas — one in each child’s stocking. I could hardly believe that and spent lots of time pondering it.

  • Reply
    Margaret Johnson
    December 1, 2016 at 10:07 am

    I think as we get older, we appreciate our roots and the meaning and love of those that came before. I would appreciate the opportunity to read, Dorie Woman of the Mountains. Enjoy this first day of December and for me the first day of the Christmas season.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    December 1, 2016 at 10:03 am

    my kind of book — well, at least one of my kind of books since I can’t pass many of them by.

  • Reply
    Sherry Case
    December 1, 2016 at 9:26 am

    I love Appalachian literature. For several years, I taught a unit on Appalachia to my eighth grade students. If I’d had my way it would have been the entire year!
    When I was in grade school, I remember my Daddy and cousin annual tradition. A few days before Christmas, they would take drive down to Newport to be fireworks. This was always done after dark, and rarely discussed.
    No one in the family asked where the firecrackers, Roman Candles, and Sparklers came from, they were just happy to have the entertainment on Christmas Eve and Christmas night. Daddy always put some of them back, so we could celebrate New Years too!
    I love seeing your posts every morning. They get my days off to a great start! Thank you for that!!

  • Reply
    larry Griffith E.KY.
    December 1, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Shirl posted fireworks at Christmas.When I was a boy in the 50’s,the only time fireworks were sold was around Christmas time.

  • Reply
    larry Griffith E.KY.
    December 1, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Shirl posted fireworks at Christmas.When I was a boy in the 50’s,the only time fireworks were sold was around Christmas time.

  • Reply
    larry Griffith E.KY.
    December 1, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Shirl posted fireworks at Christmas.When I was a boy in the 50’s,the only time fireworks were sold was around Christmas time.

  • Reply
    larry Griffith E.KY.
    December 1, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Shirl posted fireworks at Christmas.When I was a boy in the 50’s,the only time fireworks were sold was around Christmas time.

  • Reply
    Lonnie Baker
    December 1, 2016 at 9:14 am

    I always enjoy reading about mountain life.

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    December 1, 2016 at 9:07 am

    I would so love to have this book.

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    December 1, 2016 at 9:01 am

    That would be a wonderful book to read. I love books that are about real people and their lives and especially that time period. My grandparents would have been living as children in their families and that book would be like a time machine back to their childhood. I do remember my mother and her sisters telling about their Christmas which was hanging their stockings and finding an apple, an orange, and some pecans. They didn’t get toys either. Thanks for sharing Tipper.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2016 at 8:56 am

    My grandparents were cooks in a logging camp and my Dad left home at 14 to work in logging. I really enjoy reading about those times. I enjoyed hearing their stories.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2016 at 8:29 am

    The tradition of noisemaking is still going strong in my hometown. Fireworks are bought for Christmas more often than the 4th of July. I’d love to read the book.

  • Reply
    wayne smith
    December 1, 2016 at 8:29 am

    i would love to read excerpts from this book at our christmas dinner.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    December 1, 2016 at 8:22 am

    When I was growing up, I didn’t realize Old Christmas was a “regional” thing. It wasn’t until college that I clued in that most people had no idea what it was. We still celebrate Old Christmas and keep our tree up until then.
    I’m with WendyB, an orange, a candy cane, and walnuts were the most exotic thing you could find in a stocking. That’s a great memory.

  • Reply
    Kay Paul, Alabama
    December 1, 2016 at 8:20 am

    I’ve been wanting to read this book for quite awhile now. Hope I win! Love reading your blog every day.

  • Reply
    Janet McClelland
    December 1, 2016 at 8:11 am

    Sounds like a book I’d love to read

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 1, 2016 at 8:09 am

    I agree with you. “Dorie” is an Appalachian classic. Like the Foxfire books, it is authentic. It is one more story of how change removes all that was and puts distance between generations. I have lived it for myself to a lesser degree.

  • Reply
    Hazel R. Carr
    December 1, 2016 at 8:08 am

    I enjoyed reading this portion of the book. How fortunate we older ones are to have had the ‘simple Christmas’ before the commercial businesses faded Jesus’ birthday. I, too, received fruit and nuts in my dad’s hunting sox, but Santa did come and bring a baby doll. I still have her…she is 78 years old…… and I still love her. Wishing each of you a Blessed Christmas.
    Hazel R. Carr, a Tarheel – now living in West Palm Beach, FL

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 1, 2016 at 8:05 am

    Tipper–I would echo your thoughts on “Dorie: Woman of the Mountains.” Those of your readers who aren’t familiar with the book have a treat awaiting them. It’s simple, true to life, beautifully written, and an accurate reflection of mountain life in yesteryear.
    Your quote from it about Christmas in the mountains being “bleak and uneventful” reminds me of the story Daddy so often shared about a heartbreaking Christmas when he had so hoped for a pocket knife and only got a stocking with a single orange and some hard candy. That was all his parents could afford, but a small boy didn’t understand the grip of poverty. Daddy spent most of his 101 years of earthly life making up for that loss, making sure that first his sons and later his grandsons had pocket knives aplenty.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Mike Norris
    December 1, 2016 at 8:05 am

    The tone and the imagery of the excerpt remind me a little of the writing of James Still. His RIVER OF EARTH is on of the finest mountain novels ever written.

  • Reply
    Greg Whitney
    December 1, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Thanks Tipper, What a great book. I found a copy on ebay. What a different culture we now live in.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 1, 2016 at 7:52 am

    I would love to read this book!

  • Reply
    December 1, 2016 at 7:47 am

    In the old days fruit and hard candy seemed to be a gift commonly given. It may not seem like much, but it was a rare treat.

  • Reply
    December 1, 2016 at 7:12 am

    I would love to read the book. While my family did celebrate Christmas, there was always an orange and nuts in our stockings. Both sets of grandparents lived in and around Swannanoa

  • Reply
    Melisa Pressley
    December 1, 2016 at 7:01 am

    Thanks for sharing. This sounds like an interesting read.

  • Reply
    Aline Spencer
    December 1, 2016 at 6:45 am

    I so love reading of the old days wish we had some of those days now

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