Appalachia Christmas

Dancing at Christmastime

dancing-at-Christmas-in-Appalachia

Aunt Mo and Tommy Lee Norton: When there was a dance, our parents would let us stay out until 12 A.M. The kind of dancing we did was square dancing. That was all we knew how to do. We didn’t dress up for our dances, we just wore anything we had. Usually we had somebody who would play all the time for the dancers. We would go in and move everything out of the way. Then after we finished, we would put everything back. We always went rabbit hunting on Christmas or the day before Christmas. The hunting trip would be all day long. That was the thing to do. We’d have brothers, brothers-in-law, and friends that would go. I didn’t eat the rabbit, though, I don’t like rabbit.”

Bass and Lucy Hyatt: After I got big enough to spark, we went to dances. Sometimes they’d have them on New Year’s Eve. Had them at people’s houses, you know. We’d have corn shuckings, and then that night we’d have a big dance at the house. Maybe a candy pulling or a candy breaking. People got their corn gathered and their fall work done, and everybody in the community would get together at somebody’s house. They would give us a room to have a dance in. They’d have plenty of ’em to make music. They’d take time about playing instruments and then dancing. Everybody would ride out to the farm where the dance was, tie their horses up out there. And some would come in a buggy, maybe. We’d sit up and wait for New Years.

Louise Coldren: The houses were small, and some people did not have a living room they could dance in, but we would take the bed down. They would have a fiddler, and after each set we put a nickel or dime in the hat to pay the fiddler. We had wonderful music, and we danced and had a great time. There was always refreshments at everybody’s house: cakes, cider, or hot chocolate. We sometimes would have a sack full of candy. Then a boy would reach downward and get a piece. If he got the same kind of candy that the girl had picked, they they could take a walk together. When it snowed, thirty to forty people came and brought their sleds over to go sledding. The men and boys made our sleds. The snow on the ground would freeze, and we would slide on that. We would sled all night long by firelight. We would come home, dry our clothes, and go back out.

from “A Foxfire Christmas”

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I love the vision of them taking the bed down to find room to dance and of sledding by firelight. I always enjoying reading memories of folks from Appalachia, but it is especially nice when I come across a name that I recognize. Bass Hyatt grew up right here in Brasstown and in fact he lives here yet.

“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.

Tipper

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 13, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Dancing is something I have no a propensity for. Not vertically anyway!

  • Reply
    Richard Shepherd
    December 13, 2018 at 10:48 am

    It is so good to hear of these memories, especially at Christmas time!…..Thanks Tipper!……Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  • Reply
    Dee
    December 13, 2018 at 10:31 am

    I meant to say I was raised in Illinois and experienced wonderful times of sledding down many snow covered hills, but I remember a time when we were down south at my grandparent’s home at Christmas. It was a big surprise to us when my grandfather brought out this wooden sled that he had made and had waxed the wooden runners. We were perplexed, because there wasn’t any snow down south, but we traipsed after him out to the top of this hill. I never knew that you could fly down a hill covered with pine straw. Let me tell you, it was fantastic!!

  • Reply
    Dee
    December 13, 2018 at 10:21 am

    Your post brought back memories of me listening to my Mother and her sisters tell about dances at my Daddy’s house before Mother and Daddy were married. This family of five boys who ran the farm and also their pottery shop, would have dances at their home. Like the story mentioned, they would take the chairs and furniture out of a room to clear it for the dancing. My grandfather played the Mandolin, my one uncle and my grandmother, played the piano, another played the guitar and someone the fiddle. Lots of young people would come and they had a really fun time dancing. Now my Mother’s Mother did not believe in dancing (although her husband loved to dance) so there would have been no dance party at that house. I know they worked hard on the farm and the pottery shop but they really enjoyed simple good time entertainment that they produced themselves. I loved to dance from the time I was little and I think I inherited that from my Mother’s Father. He was born and raised in Waterloo, Alabama. His father was pretty strict, but I remember the stories of him waiting til the family was asleep, then climbing out of the second floor window to a tree limb escaping down to the ground. Getting on his horse and riding to Florence, Alabama to go to a big dance there. This would have been the late 1800’s. He loved to dance.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    December 13, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Grandpapa Clark, Mama’s father, was a fiddle player and Mama used to tell us about the dances he played for–at people’s houses with furniture moved out of the way. She & her sisters were fascinated by the beautiful fiddle case and I would have loved to be able to see it. But they had a house fire and it was destroyed. He never got another.

    My mother-in-law has mentioned these, too, but they called them “play parties”. Maybe to take the curse off dancing!! I have read that the game “Rook” came into being to get around the card-playing ban.

  • Reply
    Gigi
    December 13, 2018 at 9:40 am

    When i was in grade school, that’s where i learned to square dance. That was in 3 and 4th grade. We would always go rabbit hunting on Thanksgiving day. For a long time, every wk end people would get a long wagon , the musicians would get on it and play away and us kids would dance and older people too.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    December 13, 2018 at 9:11 am

    Square dancing, the Hoedown and the Charleston are a few of the dances Mom talked about doing when they got together for a corn shucking. If a boy found a special ear of corn, he got to pick a girl to dance with. I remember a man named Mark who played the ‘banjer’ anywhere folks would listen. Mom said he had been picking and playing on front porches back when she was a teenager. It has been said that he could make that banjer talk. As far as I remember, he’s the only person who owned a musical instrument in our little town.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    December 13, 2018 at 9:07 am

    We didn’t have Christmas Dances but we did learn to Square Dance and some Clogging in PE. Mrs. Claxton would invite some of the dancers fro Fontana Village where they had an excellent group of dancers and they would try to teach us clod footed boys and graceful ladies some of the intricacies of organized dancing. We had a great time once we got over the embarassment and realized everyone else was basically the same skill level as we were.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 13, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Tipper–Br’er Don and I experienced plenty of rabbit hunting around Christmas, but I don’t think we ever had all-day hunts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. However, the days immediately following Christmas were prime for hunting. You almost always had a new item of Duxbak attire, some shotgun shells had been among your gifts, a new pocket knife, or something similar. One magical Christmas for me brought my first gun. It was a single-shot Stevens Model 220A 20 gauge shotgun, and I still own it.

    As for not eating rabbits, those folks placed themselves in a sad state of culinary deprivation. Properly prepared (and Momma was a wizard in that regard) rabbit makes the kind of eating which would have my Grandpa Joe raring back from the table and pronouncing, “Mighty fine, mighty fine.”

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    December 13, 2018 at 7:51 am

    We were still square dancing in 2004 when I left PA to come to the mountains in NC. In fact we had a fiddlers day where we danced from morning til night. Sometimes they had two stages set up and would change bands every two hours. We only stopped long enough to grab something to eat or get a drink . Wish my body could take a day of that now.

  • Reply
    tmc
    December 13, 2018 at 5:30 am

    Square Dance Party is an Album that was produced in the 50’s or 60’s, I can remember our 6th grade teacher teaching us to square dance to this album, little did I know at the time I’d be marring the fiddler’s Niece later, and when the time came I already knew how to hop when she said jump.

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