“In third grade, my teacher, James Keener, had a big Christmas program. We called him “Teacher Jim,” and he had beautiful Christmas celebrations. He would turn us out of a day and we’d all go to the mountains and gather in greenery to decorate with. We got a tree, also. We’d come back, and when that big stove [heated with wood] got hot, that pine would smell so good. Teacher Jim would let us pull up those benches or pews (see, school was in the church) and gather around the heater so we could be warmer. I can remember that still yet. He always had a program with recitations. It was always something pertaining to Christmas and stressed the religious part of it. There might be some humor in there, too, but it was largely religious. He always invited parents in, too, and a good many people would come. That was sort of the highlight of the community. Everybody took Christmas off. We wouldn’t have to work around the farm. Usually our dad would specially get some wood up ready for good big fires. He would always get what he called a backstick, a big log to put in the fireplace, and it would last about three days. I guess it was called a Yule log in England. Dad just called it a backstick.”
from “A Foxfire Christmas”
I love the vision of Teacher Jim taking the students out into the mountains to gather greenery. I had a Sunday School teacher, Eunice Martin, who took her class up on the mountain at least once a year to have class.
“A Foxfire Christmas” is one of my favorite books about Christmas in Appalachia. You can jump over to the Foxfire site and see the book here.