Appalachia Christmas Holidays in Appalachia

I Dream Of Christmas

I dream of Christmas

Did you know people once used holly trees as Christmas trees? I’ve been re-reading The Foxfire 40th Anniversary Book and noticed many of the interviewees talked about using holly trees for Christmas trees.

Seems like it would be rather prickly-but then again if it had berries-it would already be decorated.

Thinking about the holly trees reminded me of one of Granny’s poems.

I Dream Of Christmas written by Granny Wilson

I dream of Christmases of long ago

Of trampling home thru cold and snow

Of sitting by the hearth with hearts aglow

And looking forward to Christmas

I think of times that used to be

When Mom chopped down the holly tree

And James was proabably not more than three

And we had the grandest Christmas

At Christmas there’s more love and cheer,

Perhaps because our Lord seems near

Because he came in a lowly way

And brought love and hope and Christmas

Lord hear this prayer that’s in my heart

That Christmas love may not depart

That each year hearts both young and old

May have a dream of Christmas


Hope you enjoyed Granny’s poem!

I haven’t ever thought to ask her if that was the only time Granny Gazzie chopped down a holly tree for Christmas-but I will.

Do you remember reading-seeing-or using a holly tree for a Christmas Tree?



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  • Reply
    Dona DiBernardo Silver
    February 11, 2021 at 7:33 pm

    That is a beautiful poem and also very true. I loved reading it snd will read it to my 3 year old grandson Michael.
    I do have a story about bringing in the holly at Christmas time.
    I worked for a woman a few years back cleaning her big Victorian mansion. It was Christmas time and I noticed there were a few holly trees tucked behind her pool house.
    So I decided I would cut a few branches for my sister and I to decorate my dads house. Dad is passed now but he was in his mid nineties at the time. Very alert and active at that. Well I never realized how darn prickly holly was but I was determined to bring a bunch to dads.
    Well I did and left them in his foyer.
    My sister and I were upstairs having a cup of tea and we heard all cursing from the foyer. It was my dad yelling who the he#%€<£€€ bought this stuff in the house.
    He picked up the holly not knowing it was covered with sharp leaves and stabbed his fingers hands snd arms.
    Well needless to say those holly trimmings sure looked pretty hanging out side on the lantern. They were not allowed in the house lolll
    Great memories

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    January 2, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    You tell granny I love her poem and she’s a true poet. I remember chopping down a Holly Tree and using it for Christmas.. We also used Hollys for decorations..

  • Reply
    December 23, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Wonderful poem! Thanks so much for sharing. Merry Christmas to you and yours and all the Blind Pig Gang.

  • Reply
    December 22, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Granny’s poem was very warm and evocative. She is a good word-picture painter!
    I never realized that holly was used for anything but a few sprigs here and there for decoration. I’ve only ever seen small holly bushes used in landscaping. Maybe I need to get out into the woods more!

  • Reply
    janet pressley
    December 22, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Very nice poem!

  • Reply
    December 22, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    While I don’t know Granny, I can almost picture her writing this under candlelight or the light of the fire keeping her warm. I can feel her reminiscence old Christmases. I can’t picture cutting down a Holly tree; I love them much too much. A pine tree was just the way I was brought up.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    December 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Nice poem! And from the picture,
    looks like Pap (as well as the
    Deer Hunter) married UP…
    We use to gather lots of Holly
    with berries as well as mistletoe
    and sell at Christmas Time. Have
    never seen a Holly tree used as a
    Christmas Tree…Ken

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Tipper–Like B. Ruth, I’ve made holly leaves spin, skipped rocks, used corn stalks to throw rocks, used smilax (saw brier) leaves to call turkeys, made popguns out of elderberry shoots, fashioned fishing poles out of river canes, used the lead covering on nails for fishing sinkers, and more.
    What do all of these have in common? They are all free, something which meant more than a little in days gone by when money was scarce as hen’s teeth.
    I could add to the above list appreciably, and I’ll guarantee the same is true for a lot of other readers.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 22, 2012 at 11:38 am

    I have a Holly tree in my upper yard that I have been nurturing for as long as I have been here. It was a stump that had been cut off with a few sprouts growing out of it. For some reason I didn’t dig it up along with all the other stumps and sprouts that were there. As it grew all the sprouts grew together and reformed into a truck again. With a little gentle persuasion the limbs grew together and entangled themselves. I cut the tops back at about ten feet tall. I have kept it trimmed in a ball shape. I have ringed rocks around the base and filled it in with mulch. It does pretty much what it wants as pruning is painful. Thankfully mowing under it is seldom necessary. It does shed leaves sometimes so bare footedness in its neighborhood is ill-advised.
    I have named my tree Holly Holy. She is full of red berries and bird’s nests. Her thorny leaves and tightly tangled branches are a perfect aviary-nursery-fortress for tiny feathered friends. Larger birds and feline marauders are hindered by her intertwining limbs.
    I have had some yard work going on this year but in previous years we have strung lights in Holly Holy to make her as pretty by night as by day. Further daytime ornamentation seems gaudy.
    Granny’s poem is as pretty as she is and quite thought provoking. I especially liked the prayer at the end.

  • Reply
    December 22, 2012 at 11:22 am

    We never used a Holly tree; don’t remember seeing one with berries on it that was any size.
    You know how I love poems. Granny’s was great. Somewhere (I have heard it said) my Granny wrote a poem when she was in grammar school. Where that poem is today I’ll probably never know. My Momma said it was about the country girl and the city girl.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    December 22, 2012 at 10:58 am

    One more thang…the trick to the holly spin is to get a leaf that has thorns opposite that are oppostie. That will give it a more balanced spin!
    I’m done…I have got to make Ambrosia…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    December 22, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Do any of your readers remember, taking a sharp pointed holly leaf, putting it between your middle finger and thumb. Holding ever so lightly, (cause it is prickly) give it a slight puff of air and watch it spin round and round. We always tried to see who could get theirs spinning the fastest and longest…without poking the heck out of our tender young fingers….LOL
    I think this is an Appalachian game, it was taught to me by parents..
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    December 22, 2012 at 10:32 am

    lovely poem — you are very like your mother in many ways as I can see in the picture of her and her mother. Happy Holidays and thanks for all the days you brighten and enlighten with Blind Pig & The Acron.

  • Reply
    Lonnie Dockery
    December 22, 2012 at 9:15 am

    I love the poem!

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    December 22, 2012 at 8:45 am

    We seldom used a holly tree, because there were not many growing in the woods of Choestoe, so maybe one or two holly Christmas trees were all I recall. The holly trees in our woods were generally too large to use as a Christmas tree. We would use holly leaves for other decorations, like a garland on the mantel. Pine trees were quite plentiful, and they smelled soooooo good! So the pine tree was usually our choice. I don’t remember the cause, but some years the holly trees would not bear berries. Maybe the season had not been right. But going to the woods to get the tree was a great part of country Christmas! I enjoyed Granny’s poem! For many years I’ve composed a Christmas poem to include with the Christmas cards I send. A joyous Christmas to all of you readers and to the Blind Pig Gang! I love the Christmas singing/playing, and I’m especially glad you included “The Friendly Beasts.” We don’t hear that one as often as we do the others. Thank you!

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    December 22, 2012 at 8:43 am

    I love Grannys poem..Has Pap ever considered writing music for the poem. It is so beautiful. I plan on making a copy and keeping it in “my journal book of joy”…
    Thanks so much for sharing, Tipper
    PS…Does Granny have any more poems you can share?

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    December 22, 2012 at 8:36 am

    I’ve thought about this as much as my brain would allow this morning. I don’t recall any of my family using a holly tree for a Christmas tree…I know they (they) being immediate relatives, Aunts, Grandparents etc. never mentioned a tree of holly…They all reveared holly as a decoration on doors, doorways, mantels, etc..and they loved being able to get it with the red berries. I remember reading about and seeing illustrations with a tilted lone holly tree, decorated in the snow. with all the sweet looking animals of the forest sitting in the snow around it, stareing at the star on top of the tree.
    We have a holly in our back yard..It was salvaged from destruction when a ball park was going to be built. My husband brought four young ones home. He planted them, knowing that we needed at least two to live for red berries. One was planted in the back yard, the other two around the edge of the woods, and one at a higher elevation on the north slope of our hill.
    I love my holly, but it doesn’t have berries. It is tall now, about 40 or 50 feet, that is my husbands estimate. Still, no red berries, as the ones in the edge of the woods must have died. We hope every year that a seed has be transported from somewhere to our woods and grow to pair up with our tree…
    On a cold snowy day, our holly is still lovely, with the ivy near by…When it was tiny, I would hang miniature red balls on it.
    Very hard to do now!
    Thanks Tipper for the post,
    PS…I leave any fallen leaves for the faeries to hide under…

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 22, 2012 at 7:51 am

    Holly trees would be perfect, the ones growing around my cabin are a perfect shape. Love the idea

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    December 22, 2012 at 7:07 am

    I love Granny’s poem. While we’ve never had a holly for a Christmas tree, when I go out in the woods on Christmas Eve to collect wild things for my Christmas cross wreath, I’m always on the look for holly.
    While my leanings are distinctly toward old-timey Christmas carols, there is a relatively recent one (at least to me it’s recent – as in the last decade) which I really like by the Chieftans, “O The Holly She Bears a Berry”
    Here it is on youtube:

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    December 22, 2012 at 6:54 am

    Never heard of using the holly tree, I’m glad my wife never got into that one, man, those things are rough..seems like a good way to punish a husband to me,,, Nice poem by they way…

  • Reply
    December 22, 2012 at 6:09 am

    Hope your Christmas is filled with all the joy and warmth of Christmas past. Best wishes to you and your family for the holiday season.

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