Celebrating Appalachia Videos Christmas

Christmas Traditions in Appalachia

Can you believe Christmas is almost here? It seems like 2020 has went by in a blur and before you know it we’ll be in the year 2021.

In my latest video I share some of Appalachia’s wonderful Christmas traditions and folklore.

I hope you enjoyed the video! Please leave a comment and share your favorite Christmas traditions. Follow this link to read “And the Animals Knelt” by Ceila Miles.

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  • Reply
    March 5, 2021 at 8:49 pm

    thank you for being so thorough and insightful in your memories of Christmas traditions. I looked in to getting myself a copy of the Smoky Mountain dictionary you kept referring to. It’s about $500. Holy cats! If you have a chance – could you spell out the ‘gay lacks’ leaf you were mentioning in this video. I wanted to look it up and cannot get a spelling that google will accept. be well

    • Reply
      March 16, 2021 at 1:58 pm

      Melissa-Hopefully the new dictionary will be a lot cheaper! The plant I was talking about is galax. 

  • Reply
    Barbara Inmon
    January 25, 2021 at 3:40 pm

    what is the brand name of your yeast thatnyou use in your rolls and where can it be ordered?

    • Reply
      January 25, 2021 at 3:43 pm

      Barbara-I’ve used Fleischmann’s and Red Star. I believe both can be purchased online through walmart and I’m sure they’re available from other online sites too.

  • Reply
    Jeanette Queen
    December 16, 2020 at 3:11 pm

    Tipper, thank you for awakening great memories in my heart and soul of Christmas Time in the Mountains.

    My family did all the things you talked about, we always had our stockings (socks) filled with a tangerine, orange
    and stick candy, oh how we all looked forward to those, as that was all a treat for us mountain children.
    My Mother always made an Apple stack cake, Daddy loved it so much. We often only had chicken instead of turkey,
    and Mother always made Daddy chicken n dumplings too. He said many a’ time, that he’d rather have that
    than all the turkeys you could catch….haha.
    Our fondest memories were the kin folks that come by to see us, bring us little treats sometimes, but just to see them
    and be with family was the most important thing in the world to us. I remember as a little girl, falling asleep to the
    sounds of family stories, songs, banjos and fiddles…..then later as I got a little bigger, I was part of that music tradition in our family, learning to pick and sing, carrying on a tradition of 7 Generations. Just us all being together, picking music, singing, laughing, eating…..that was the BEST! And, Still is.
    Oh, what I would give to be able to just have another of these Christmas Times in the Mountains of NC with all our loved ones that have gone on………….but they still live in our hearts, memories, stories and songs. We honor and cherish them, missing them everyday, we tell the stories now, sing the songs and keep them alive in our hearts and souls.
    Merry Christmas, Tipper to you and your family.

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    December 13, 2020 at 12:34 am

    Our family did oyster stew on Christmas Eve.. Both my grandma and then my momma fixed it for us. I never followed through with the tradition. Shame on me!

    Oyster dressing was also a must at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Most of the traditions you mentioned were also observed by our family. We also make gingerbread mean using a particular cutter. Mommy and grandmas use red hot cinnamon candies for the eyes and buttons. I never cared for the candies, they are hard because they are added before baking. I solved delema by adding red icing eyes and buttons. The look the same, but I like the icing much better.

    There are 5 generations of gingerbread bakers using cutters identical to the one my grandmother used. My mommy was able to find new ones for me and my brothers and sisters as we became adults. I found new ones via mail order for our sons, nieces, and nephews. The last batch Was bought off eBay, all used.

    We do sugar cookies too.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2020 at 8:19 pm

    When I was a child, on Christmas, we would always go rabbit hunting every year. There always be snow. Now we pick out a new ornament for the tree every year.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2020 at 8:10 pm

    Late getting on here, but just wanted to let you know your video was wonderful, and I loved to hear about all the different traditions. I knew one older man who collected moss. It was so common, if I visited she would tell me “He is mossin.” It was a nice outlet for them, as they would take it to Beckley, WV to sell, and then would eat out while there. Eating out was rare for this older couple, and they got such pleasure from simple things. They had no garden spot, so he lined the front of the flower bed in front with staked tomato plants. I have always been so appreciative of anything people did that had anything to do with the workings of nature.

    I had to mention that snowy scene in your photo yesterday reminded me, and made me homesick for snow covered roads from my youth. In many ways the four seasons are the greatest thing about most of Appalachia.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 11, 2020 at 6:00 pm

    I have a she holly in my yard. I call her Holly Holy after the Neil Diamond song that was popular back when I was alive.
    Holly Holy is the perfect Christmas tree. She is evergreen and she self-decorates every year at the perfect time.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    You can see the love in Corie’s eyes for her Grandmother. I can recognize it because I have looked at many old pictures of me with my Mother and my Aunts and you can see the love for family showing in my eyes too. Granny sure does know how to crochet beautiful and useful things.
    My Mother’s people were from E TN and NW AL. Mother’s two oldest sisters were the ones that went out in the woods and found the perfect cedar tree for their Christmas. At that time, it was decorated with long strands of popcorn and red berries from she hollies. Mother’s family always had goose for their special meal with old timey Orange Cake, Coconut Cake and Pecan Pie. When I was growing up in the 50’s, Mother continued making the Orange Cake and Coconut Cake. When they retired and moved back down south, those Orange Cakes became very treasured gifts she made for her brothers and sisters there.
    One of my dear Aunt’s told me about the children going Serenading to all the families that lived nearby at Christmas. I thought she had made a mistake by calling it Serenading and asked don’t you mean Caroling. After listening to your post, I realize at that time they called it Serenading.

  • Reply
    martha j childers
    December 11, 2020 at 11:09 am

    My daddy would shoot his gun into the air too. He also bought something called sparklers that we lit and waved in the dark.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2020 at 10:23 am

    Tipper, I remember gathering mistletoe, holly, pine cones, cutting a cedar tree for Christmas. I also knew about the male and female holly trees, but never heard holly called he holly or she holly. The youth at the churches would go around and sing Christmas carols to the elderly people and the ones that were called shut ins ( the ones that had health problems and were unable to come to church). As for food, my favorite food now is my wife’s sausage balls, she will only makes them at Christmas. We have asked if there is a law that says they can only be made at Christmas. We have tried bribery, offered to pay, sweet talking to her but so far nothing has worked. The secret to hers is they are made with fresh sausage like we use to have when we butchered at home. To me Christmas was a lot more enjoyable when we went out and gathered things found in the outdoors than now when so much is just bought at a store. Like what was said in the last few days, what I miss most is the family gatherings with the family members that have passed on.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2020 at 9:33 am

    My parents believed the folklore about animals kneeling and speaking on Christmas Eve at midnight. That always fascinated me when I was growing up. When I moved away from Appalachia, I was shocked to hear firecrackers on the 4th of July, a sound I had only heard at Christmas. The only tradition I continue is making sure I have plenty fruit and nuts for all to enjoy. I will never forget the smells of Christmas in Appalachia. The smell of tangerines bring back fond memories of finding one or two in my stocking on Christmas morning. The smell from the big lights that heated the branches of our fresh cut cedar tree is something I will never forget.

  • Reply
    cathy sparks
    December 11, 2020 at 8:43 am

    Thank you for kindling a warm childhood memory. My dad was born and raised in Russell County, KY near Lake Cumberland. Every Nov. we would make the 5 1/2 hr. trek south from Indiana to KY. We would gather mistletoe to bring home. The trunk of the car was fully loaded with big boughs of mistletoe. Once home we formed our assembly line around the kitchen table breaking off little twigs and bagging it. My dad would then go to grocery stores and florests to sell these bags by the dozens. Little did I know this was how my parents provided our Christmas. This was a wonderful, fun family tradition that I would love to have a chance to do just one more time.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 11, 2020 at 8:31 am

    Oh my, you made me think of so many things. I can’t cover them all.

    I guess in our family the main tradition, besides food, was gathering greenery. The main feature was getting the tree. As a child that was off national forest and we never thought about getting a permit in those days, a strict no-no now. We usually got a cedar from a powerline because those would be cut anyway at some time in maintaining the line. We also gathered holly if we could find “she holly”. As woods folks know, there are many more he-hollies than she-hollies so finding it was not easy. There wasn’t any galax where I grew up though. I do remember Dad shooting out some mistletoe one year but it was more a happenstance than a planned thing. I have discovered just this year that I have one little clump of mistletoe high in a hackberry in the fencerow. I doubt I will try to get any.

    Thank you for the story of Lenor (hope that’s right). I know we think we must hide our finer emotions but it was sweet that you were touched by your memory of her. I was touched by the story too because I recognize her giving character, just like my Mom had. There are giving souls who by nature think of others first. Lord knows it is a rare trait because thinking of self first is first-nature for most of us. I am a little envious of those who think of others first because I wish I was more that way. If it is not the best skill in human relations it is, I think, the second best. As you said, her actions exemplified the spirit of Christmas and I dare say she did so year-round.

    Your story of the pine tree reminds me. I have posted about this once before I think but anyway, there is a longleaf pine down at the turnoff onto the Picklesimer Mountain Rd. down by Blairsville, GA. It is out in the vicinity of Alexander’s Store. Longleaf pine is not a mountain tree but rather a native of the Sand Hills and Coastal Plain. Anyway, the needles are a foot long or more and the cones are much larger than any of the Appalachian native pines. When you get in sight of it, you can tell ir is “not from around here”.

    As for the girls making a cookie mess, it was the making of a priceless memory. We rarely make memories intentionally so in looking back we remember the memories made without a plan, just daily life. Corie’s comment about being a cooker shows that she recognized a value in cooking that was more than just food.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2020 at 8:12 am

    Wondering about oysters:
    Do you suppose since many of our ancestors came first to live near the Atlantic that the love of oysters has been handed down from early America? As settlers moved West they would have been hard to come by – a real treat on Christmas!
    My husband’s family was mostly German from York PA, (no Appalation ties that I know of) but they loved Oyster soup as a treat.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2020 at 7:58 am

    My mother was crazy about Christmas. She was raised during the Great Depression w/an absentee father so there was a constant struggle to provide any extras-like grits. She wanted to make sure her five children had the good times she missed growing up.

    When she heard about some Christmas traditions she & Dad started implementing them. We had a huge Yule Log lit in the fireplace late Christmas Eve. It was supposed to burn until Christmas night, then the last chunk was saved out in the woodhouse to start the Yule log the next Christmas.. There were several more traditions that I tried to keep going after my parents were gone & my husband & I lived in the Homeplace.

    Those were the days!

  • Reply
    December 11, 2020 at 7:56 am

    I,learned something new. Never knew there was a he & she mistletoe. When I was a teenager in the 60s I sold fireworks for a man that set up several stands during July 4th and the Christmas season. Always was good to get the extra money. I remember everybody was always asking about the illegal “cherrybomb” fireworks.

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    December 11, 2020 at 7:05 am

    Wonderful video Tipper. I learned so much. Growing up in Charlotte as a boy, Mama and Daddy would carry us around to friends and family’s houses in what were called, “Pop Calls”. These were unannounced visits where Egg Nog would be served. Each visit only lasted 15 or 20 minutes, and gifts were not exchanged. We could never afford to buy Christmas trees, so we would trek into the woods to find the perfect Red Cedar. Mama always cooked a turkey, and made a Pecan Pie.
    Christmas was the only time of year that we got Tangerines. They were such a rare treat.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 11, 2020 at 7:00 am

    Tipper, when I was little my family lived in Pasadena Texas. I was not old enough to really understand Christmas but I remember going to church on Christmas Eve. The sanctuary was dimly lit there were lots of candles and singing and incense. I also remember Christmas candy and oranges. That is my very earliest Christmas memories.
    That was a long time ago!
    PS: I love the picture of Granny and Corie at the beginning of the video…I know Granny made the Christmas hat and scarf and aren’t they beautiful on her!

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