Appalachia Christmas

Margaret Norton, Winter 1973 – Foxfire

“You cooked a big dinner, and the relatives came in t’ eat-just sort of like they do now. Maybe they’d come an’ stay three, four days. They had t’ walk. We had a aunt that lived up here on Patterson Creek, an’ she’d always come stay a week with us through Christmas. We’d decorate our house an’ hang up our stockin’. We always hung up our stockin’ an’ decorated with holly an’ the kind of greenery we had. We didn’t have bought decorations or things like that unless we had some paper an’ could make a chain, y’know, colored paper-an’ ivy, whatever we could find. We had a Christmas tree an’ hung up our stockin’s. We’d get a orange an’ apple an’ three, four pieces o’ candy an’ maybe a harp [harmonica] ‘r a pencil ‘r a monkey a-climbin’ a string or somethin’ like that. An’ our mother’s and daddy’s shoes, they’d always be oranges in their shoes.”

—-Margaret Norton, Winter 1973 from the The Foxfire 40th Anniversary Book.


If you’ve never read any of the Foxfire Books-I highly recommend them. The great folks at Foxfire are still cranking them out. Click here to jump over and visit the Foxfire online store.



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  • Reply
    April 10, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    I have several of Foxfire books. That was my treat to myself, each year on vacation I’d buy one. Many hours of good reading. Still have them.

  • Reply
    Chuck Howell
    December 26, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    The first time I saw “Foxfire” was at the Joyce Kilmer Park in North Carolina. We were camping with my Aunt Ada, her kids and others. The beautiful blue-white glow was so beautiful. I got a hands on education as to what was happening as wood decayed in the forest. Aunt Ada and family lived in a real log house built by my Grandfather Robert Howell, with much help of course. Local people and materials were used. A well on the Porch with Rope & Bucket complete with a dipper. All this by the side of a dirt road just on the outskirts of Robinsville N. C. The simple life in the 40’s was great for kids like me as my family had moved to Roanoke the start of WWII and vacations meant return to the country to visit grandparents. Human need is more than wealth and power. Wild berries, apple orchards, wild game on the table with homemade bread. Somethings Really need to be celebrated. I know we will all realize this in our final days. I intend to keep this focus as I am able. The Foxfire Books are wonderful. Happy New Year tho youns one and all. Chuck Howell

  • Reply
    Granny Norma
    December 14, 2014 at 12:59 am

    I’ve been thinking about this post for a couple of days. The Foxfire books are great of course. I’ve had the first six for years but I had no idea there were so many volumes. However, what really caught my attention was Rhonda’s comment. Like her, we had bountiful Christmas mornings filled with such goodies as doll houses and electric trains, a beautiful tree covered in bubble lights and aluminum icicles, loads of confections and a huge dinner. When we were kids, Christmas was kind of like the movie “The Christmas Story” without the pink bunny suit and leg lamp and more rural. Leading up to the big day so many stores would have wonderful window displays all lit up and with mechanical toys or manger scenes. I remember going to visit a department store Santa one year. My little brother went first and asked Santa for a “Tommy Gun and a Machete.” I couldn’t believe it! Santa didn’t tell him he’d shoot his eye out but he might as well have. He finally got a BB gun but not that year. I’m pleased to say none of us were blinded by it.
    As I got older I began to ask my parents what Christmas was like when they were young and I got a story similar to the one told by Rhonda’s father. My dad told me that their tree was lit with candles. They lived on a big farm and electric was only in the cities back then. On Christmas morning the stockings were filled with oranges, nuts and a simple toy like a ball. I know they weren’t poor. I think that’s just the way Christmas was back then. It was the the celebration of the birthday of our Savior and as such, gifts were modest and the emphasis was on church and family, visiting and receiving guests.
    When I was growing up parents wanted more for their children that they had as kids, and the new prosperity after the war caused them to give lavish gifts and maybe forget just whose birthday it was. Thanks to relentless ad campaigns for decades, people have completely lost all sense of what Christmas is really about, starting with substituting an X for Christ (Xmas) moving on to a slug-fest at the local Wal-Mart over cheap electronics on “Black Friday” and ending in a paper-tearing frenzy on Christmas Day.
    Perhaps we should all consider returning to a quieter, home-made kind of Christmas were love of God and family comes first.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2014 at 1:10 am

    Reading through the comments brought a smile to my face. You see, my Dad told us kids stories of what he received for Christmas.
    An apple, an orange and a piece of stick candy.
    Here we are with our Barbie dolls, Chatty Cathy, nice clothes, games for my sisters and me. Play toolboxes, trucks of all kinds for my brother. An apple and orange we ask?
    In the midst of all our toys, Brachs candy, and chocolate snowmen it was hard to believe his Christmas was so meager. A piece of stick candy, I didn’t even know what stick candy looked like back then.
    But yes my Dad grew up poor. I didn’t realize until years later how much effort my parents put into our Christmas. I am humbled by it.
    As I listen to my Grandchildren recite all their wants for Christmas I thought of my Dad. His Christmas and decided it’s time to tell the stories of Christmas past.
    This post just reinforces my thought.
    I am new to Firefox. Someone in one of the Appalachian Mountains group mentioned them recently.Of course I googled them.
    Each post I learn something. Through you or the comments of your readers. Thank you.

  • Reply
    December 10, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    I don’t know about the Foxfire
    stuff, only what I’ve read over the years in your blogs. These cataracts causes me not to see well lately, but you can make just about anything interesting.
    Had 1/8″ of snow on my porch this
    morning, some on my car top, but
    the high mountains are simply

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 10, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    I love the stories in the Foxfire books

  • Reply
    Richard Moore
    December 10, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Love the Foxfire books and have all of them. I also subscribe to the magazine, which I highly recommend.
    My father, born in 1906, was one of 12 kids (he was the 10th) and there wasn’t a lot of money for Christmas. He and his brothers and sisters talked about the stockings with nuts and oranges, which in those days were hard to come by in winter.
    One thing they all mentioned were peppermint candy sticks that came in cans of Arbuckles’ coffee. A candy stick was included in every can and so my Moore grandparents saved them up to hand out at Christmas.
    Arbuckles Coffee was born in 1864 and was one of the first coffee roasters who sold roasted coffee in cans. A family firm it finally broke up in the late 1930s. The only surviving brand is Yuban.
    A company out West has revived the brand and includes a stick of candy in every can. Here is a link to the Arbuckles history:

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes
    December 10, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    I bought my Granny the Foxfire books when they first came out. When she died I took them back. I still read them and enjoy them. They make me think of her.

  • Reply
    December 10, 2014 at 11:42 am

    1973 can’t be “old”!!!! Time is running away so fast – and I’m trying so hard to savor each moment. While immersed in one, I’m missing another – they really aren’t just sequential!
    I too recall the stocking gifts – Dad grew all sorts of citrus but not tangerines so getting a tangerine in our stocking was a real treat! Brazil nuts and cashews were the other prized finds since we had pecan trees in all of our yards.
    b.Ruth is spot on pointing out all the ways (parades, concerts, parties) we use to try to show that we are celebrating the season. In all the hoopla we miss out on the real treasures of celebrating and commemorating with family and friends.
    Foxfire does remind of simpler times – and I cherish those memories. Now we have to make a choice to simplify. For one, I’m trying again to ban electronics from Christmas day (except to Skype one family member who can’t make it home) – – wish me luck!!!

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    December 10, 2014 at 9:40 am

    In the fifties and sixties, we got apples, oranges, Brazil Nuts, English Walnuts and candy canes in our stockings. That’s all we expected.

  • Reply
    December 10, 2014 at 9:14 am

    When I first read a Foxfire magazine, I was hooked. I have ordered several of their older books from ebay. Many of the stories, including Margret Norton’s, could have been written by me.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 10, 2014 at 8:44 am

    That story of Ms. Norton, reminds me of what my parents said they received on Christmas. Dad said once in a while he got socks or shells for his gun but usually candy and fruit that he remembers. Mom said she got socks, and sometimes a doll, nuts and fruit!
    The Foxfire books have been helpful to research authentic tools, etc. used in Appalachia.
    The large spinning wheel, that was handed down to me, is practically identical to one of the many pictures of wheels in the Foxfire 2 book. There were so many different varieties of large wheels, and this reference helped me a lot. The large wheel was my great grandmothers, we think it was passed from her mother.
    Dad always related old tales and actualities to a person who had a connection to the Foxfire books. When they saw each other at his office, they would talk about his youth and living on the mountain farm. One thing he especially believed in was about comfrey tea preventing kidney stones. The reference is in one of the books somewhere as he asked my Dad permission to tell his use of comfrey.
    I love the Foxfire books and have a few that belonged to my parents.
    Thanks Tipper,
    I doubt that back then, Grandparents and parents didn’t attend three Christmas parades, Two school and choir music programs and still get prepared for the holidays..
    It’s cold and Christmas is almost here!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    December 10, 2014 at 8:27 am

    My Dad has talked about those days when he got an orange, some walnuts and candy in a bag for Christmas. I think those Christmases living in Sylva, NC are the most fondly remembered that he has.
    We got our Certificate of Occupancy today for our house we are building, so it looks like we will get a house for Christmas. We just have to keep remembering that the “stuff” we get is not the reason for the season…

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    December 10, 2014 at 8:16 am

    Love the Foxfire books. Thanks for reminding me about them.
    It’s been a long time since I read one.

  • Reply
    December 10, 2014 at 7:56 am

    I have two Foxfire books. They have helped me learn more about the old days. I also have a couple of what I call pamphlet style ones. I have really enjoyed them.

  • Reply
    Barb Wright
    December 10, 2014 at 7:27 am

    How timely! I have been re-reading the Foxfire Christmas..which hubby bought me a couple years ago. I just love those stories and recipes! Simple,but loving times. We enjoy all of those books..ours are so dog eared!!

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