Christmas Holidays in Appalachia

My Old Timey Christmas Tree

Sweet gum ball christmas ornaments
Once I got the thought of an old timey Christmas tree in my mind-I couldn’t let it go. From the moment I told The Deer Hunter I wanted a real tree from our woods-I was determined to have an old fashioned tree.

The first decoration we made came from A Foxfire Christmas (click on the title to read part of the book). One of the interviewees described how they took sycamore balls and dipped them in flour and water to make them white like snow balls. I didn’t have any sycamore balls-but I do have a never ending supply of sweet gum balls.

First-I made a thin batter of flour and water and dipped the sweet gum ball in it;

Then-I rolled/dipped the ball in flour;

I was so pleased with how they turned out-they did indeed look like snowballs.

B. Ruth shared how her family used flour and water to make decorations for Christmas with me:

My childhood memory of greenery decoration was gathering small cedar pieces, wetting them under the faucet, placing a 1/2 cup of flour in a large brown poke..while holding the damp branches upside down in the poke, gather the poke around them and shake it….take out.. instant snowfall…we would put them all around in vases and attach little red and silver balls…yes it would get messy after a while but was so pretty to us and would last thru the holidays…back then we only put up our real tree a week or less in advance of Christmas..

One other decoration from days gone by, that kept coming up in my reading, was stars or chains made from paper. My Great Aunt Hazel told me her family used any scraps of paper they could find around the house to make stars and chains. Several of the books mentioned folks using Sears Roebuck Catalog pages to make chains, stars, or other shapes.

Going for the simplest route-me and the girls made round cut out snow flakes from both red and white paper. The Deer Hunter said it wouldn’t be old timey if we didn’t string popcorn-although when it came time to string it-he conveniently disappeared.

We topped the tree with one of my recent Folk Angel Toppers-and we did add lights which I don’t guess is too old timey.

christmas tree
All in all-we are pleased with how it turned out-and I love how simple and easy it seemed to come together.

Be sure to drop back by tomorrow-GW Newton is going to share some of his extra special Christmas memories with us.



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  • Reply
    December 15, 2010 at 11:44 am

    The snowballs look awesome! Great work! When I was a kid, we used to make paper chains out of catalog and magazine pages. We also strung popcorn every year too. I always complained about it but it’s a great memory now! We hung the strings out for the birds after Christmas so we got to enjoy it even longer!

  • Reply
    Tammy N
    December 15, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Hi Tipper!
    I remember in 6th grade we did a Christmas craft with the abundant supply of sweet gum balls. We built Christmas trees on a Styrofoam base they stuck together really well.
    And, I just saw a Martha Stewart show where she dipped them in a mixture of glue & water then some sparkly glitter and made a wreath with them. It turned out really pretty.
    I like your tree, I bet it smells heavenly!♥

  • Reply
    December 15, 2010 at 6:47 am

    The trees look wonderful!
    A Foxfire Christmas has been one of my favorite reads this year. I’ve been gathering Sweet Gum balls to make those super cute tiny snowballs – yours turned out very nice.
    In the spirit of A Foxfire Christmas I have been walking our property in search of natural and creative ways to decorate our home. I have holly bushes, cedar trees, pines, and all of the pine cones I can gather.
    Thanks for the post.

  • Reply
    December 14, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    I LOVE them both!!
    You’re creativity never ceases to amaze me!

  • Reply
    December 14, 2010 at 9:18 am

    I like both trees. May you have a blessed Christmas and a Happy Ne Year.

  • Reply
    December 14, 2010 at 6:29 am

    That is the cutest tree I’ve ever seen! Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    December 13, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    The trees look beautiful! And I’m going to be on the lookout for sweet gum balls — they turned out great!

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    December 13, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Tipper: both trees are great ,like ours were back in the old days. except our trees out in the great northwest,are Douglas or Nobel fir.also i remember my grandmother had real lighted candles on the ends of the limbs. us kids made paper garlands,and we strung popcorn on strings.those memories are special,especially grandmas cooking, and singing carols. regards k.o.h

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    The tree is beautiful!! I’d love to have a real one, but it is just too dry in our house with it being right in the room with the wood stove. I used to love having cedar trees (they smell so good!). Tipper, I love how the sweetgum balls turned out! We’ll have to try some of them for our tree:).
    Critter’s tree turned out so pretty, too! I always love seeing what’s going on at your house.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    I love the Christmas tree!! When we were kids we did the popcorn and made the paper chains. Later on we got some brought on ornaments and icicles to put on the trees.
    Chitter’s tree is real cute!! Just perfect!
    Oh, I love the cap hanger!! 🙂

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    That is neat what you did with the sweet gum balls. We have lots of sycamore balls we could use. Seems like I remember when we were little shaking flour on pine branches, I had forgotten all about doing that.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Patty-we have about 6 inches in Brasstown-and we have the wind too!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 11:49 am

    It’s gorgeous! Exactly the kind of tree I grew up with. Makes me homesick~
    Those sweet gum balls are perfect. I really love how they turned out. And the popcorn string is the perfect touch. Good job! It’s definately an old-fashioned Christmas tree.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 11:09 am

    thanks for letting me view your two trees, tell chitter hers is lovely and just the right size. the big tree is beautiful and having all that fun makes it specail. the flour balls came out great. we used to make our own glue out of flour so this is taking it a step furhter. very creative and fun

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    December 13, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Great tree! Reminds me of when I was about 10 and we got a pine tree one year instead of the S. C. traditional red cedar. I was embarrassed and thought people would think we were poor…which we sorta’ were. Mama did a great job, like you, and it was nice but I couldn’t appreciate it until years later. She made snow from soap suds and something else (maybe egg whites?) and it looked real on the branch tips.
    All the best to the B. P. family for a great Christmas! (Don’t be ashamed ou your tree like I was.)

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Both trees are very pretty. Your family Christmas tree reminds me of the ones from my childhood. Wish we still had the German antique paper angel treetopper. She had a sweet face and brown spun glass wings (brown due to age).

  • Reply
    Larry Ross
    December 13, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Your story of the traditional tree reminds me of my childhood in upstate South Carolina. We didn’t have a lot of worldly goods, but always had food on the table, a roof over our head and dressed warmly.
    As soon as I was old enough, I was the one that found the Christmas tree. It was always a cedar. This continued even after I was married and our three girls arrived.
    In later years, we have not had a real tree and your story inspired us to do a traditional tree with home-made ornaments next year.
    Thanks for sharing and Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 10:21 am

    What beautiful trees you all have
    made and decorated with a fashion
    statement of old! And I bet you’re
    kinda grateful the Deer Hunter hung in there that long. Guys just
    don’t do the decorating thing that
    much or have the ‘touch.’ I liked
    the sweet gum balls idea. Hope you
    all are enjoying this snow and an
    early Merry Christmas to you all.
    Thanks for sharing the Christmas
    Spirit and ‘Touch of the Past.’

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Thanks for sharing, your tree is really beautiful! I’d swear I can smell it! It’s wonderful how these old time Christmas decorations brought the whole family together to create them. One year my family did popcorn strings, I was only a young girl but I remember a lot of laughter around the table while we were making them! Much more fun than running to the store! Chitter is to be commended; I always wanted a tree in my room at her age, but I never had the gumption to go out and get myself one!

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Absolutely perfect!!!

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Tipper I love your tree and mine is in a galvanized bucket too!

  • Reply
    Nancy Wigmore
    December 13, 2010 at 9:50 am

    I simply love your tree. It so reminds me of my childhood. We alwasy made do with what we had on hand. The sweet gum balls…down to the bucket for a tree stand. We often would get a sapling pine tree or perhaps a cedar. Thanks for the precious memories. Have a beautiful day. Merry Christmas! PRayerfully, Nancy

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    December 13, 2010 at 9:32 am

    The trees are beautiful.

  • Reply
    Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski
    December 13, 2010 at 8:57 am

    The blizzard of oh-the has kept us from our traditional trip to Fritz Mountain so your post has inspired me to have our own old timey Christmas tree. Enough snow to shoe on our land … What could be better? Thank you for the inspiration.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    December 13, 2010 at 8:43 am

    I wanted to add….I think the year my folks splurged and bought the aluminum reflectors was the year of our first…icicles…the old heavy like lead ones..10 cents a pack, at Woolsworths too. You had to almost peel them apart..but once on the tree they hung straight as an arrow..and shiny! Only thing, we had to save them!..Oh, what a pain to pick them off and then by the next year they were squished and squashed together and what a mess to put them on the tree the following year!…We were thankful to have had a beautiful tree that year reguardless of the aluminum foil stars and the icicles..because the rumour was that a neighbor girls family had no tree!..thanks tipper

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    December 13, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Tipper, that tree is beautiful!! And I love Chitter’s, too.
    Patty H.
    Oh! and we had about 3 in. of snow Sunday morn when we woke, a bit more accumulation last night. So windy! Did you get any? I took pictures but my camera batteries died, so can’t download them yet.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 8:21 am

    I love it, Tipper! Even more so, I love that you did it together…I guess having the popcorn stringing idea counts, even though he scedaddled! Blessings and Happy Monday

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    December 13, 2010 at 8:12 am

    What a beautiful tree! It so reminds me of the ones we had when we were growing up…only the lights are the tiny ones…LOL
    Our lights were the old large dark green twisted wire with bulbs bold and big…blue, red, orange..ewwww…with maybe some of those old aluminum reflectors on them…bought at the Woolsworth for 10 cents for a dozen of them!
    When I saw my first tiny white lights, as a child on my Aunts tree, I thought those were the most magical beautiful things I had ever seen..LOL
    It was years before we got any of those tiny magic lights….
    Chitters tree is wonderful too…such great decorating at your house…Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 13, 2010 at 8:09 am

    I love both trees…………and I love that you cared enough to create it.
    Tipper, you are the Angel!
    PS: the Deer Hunter is always around to eat the popcorn. LOL!

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 7:57 am

    I love your trees!

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 7:38 am

    And the tree stand is adorable! I saw those buckets used at light fixtures the other day.
    Your tree is beautiful as is Chitter’s.
    Happy Holidays

  • Reply
    Janice MacDaniels
    December 13, 2010 at 5:56 am

    O my goodness… I have a Great Aunt Hazel, too. She started our Christmas Tree traditions by giving our first born a little tiny stocking that held a silver dollar. Sweet Gum balls are readily available to me and I like that idea! Your tree is beautiful and homey and full of love!
    Merry Christmas, Tipper and Deer Hunter and all the family!

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