Christmas Heritage Holidays in Appalachia Profiles of Mountain People

Our First Christmas In The Matheson Cove, 1936

Christmas in Clay County NC 1936

Our First Christmas In The Matheson Cove, written by Eddie Lee Mull Garrett

In December, 1936, I was not yet enrolled in elementary school. Even so, I remember many details about our family moving into the Matheson Cove. On ‘moving day’ my little sister, Bennie Louise, my brother John and I were busy helping my mama load up our wagon. She told us to pack everything. With a smile on her face, mama said, “We are not coming back. We are moving to our very own place!”

Soon we were settled into the back of our wagon and bundled up with mama’s quilts. The wind blew cold against our faces! Mama and daddy were smiling; talking about ‘Our First Christmas’ in the Cove. Bennie Louise whispered to me about Santa Claus. John declared, “Santa will not find our house in the woods!” I did not want to think about Santa. In the back of our minds we knew he would not stop at our house. He had never brought toys to our old house!

A few days after we had moved into our new house mama asked daddy to go cut a little field pine tree for our first Christmas in the Cove. My older brother, William, and sister, Ida Jane, got busy making paper roping for the tree. My mama popped some popcorn. Then we strung the popped corn on sewing thread to make strings of snowy white decoration. Soon our little Christmas tree was beautiful. I loved it! We were ready for Christmas Eve!

The three older children did not talk about Santa. As we lay in bed that special night, whispering, Bennie asked me if I thought Santa Claus would come to our house. Softly I whispered, “Shhhh! Don’t think about it!” So she just closed her eyes and tried to go to sleep.

Awakening on Christmas morning, we rushed to the pretty Christmas tree. Sure enough there was not one shiny toy, not one pretty doll under our tree! But there were five brown paper pokes filled with something special.

After our morning prayers, mama and daddy handed each of us a brown paper poke and wished us a “Merry Christmas!” Inside our poke we found an orange and a stick of peppermint candy. We were so happy that mama and daddy had done that for us. After a warm breakfast, the boys went sledding on the sled which daddy had made. My sisters and I stayed inside and cut paper dolls from the Sears Roebuck Catalog. That night mama made snow cream for us. It was a mighty fine “FIRST CHRISTMAS” seventy years ago in the Cove!

That was the way we celebrated Christmas all through the years. Our family grew to include six more children. We did not know about such things as television, video games, computers or China. We were happy and at peace in our quiet world.

written by: Eddie Lee Mull Garrett (December 2006)

A special thank you too Eva Nell Mull Wilke for for sharing her sister’s article with us. Hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did!


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  • Reply
    December 28, 2009 at 7:29 am

    Ah! I had snow cream! Lots of times as a child, and my mom made it so tasty… I also remember that we asked Santa for one thing, but usually we got what we got, and we were grateful…
    Lovin these stories…

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    December 24, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Tipper: You are amazing and terrific at ‘getting to the heart of the matter’ on your site. All the ‘heart-warming’ comments about my family’s “FIRST CHRISTMAS IN THE MATHESON COVE” leaves me tearful but happy! I was to be born in the Cove a year and a half later! I can’t wait to meet your pappy at OUR NEXT CLASS REUNION! Happy Holidays!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    December 24, 2009 at 6:00 am

    Merry Christmas & Happy New Year. Am looking forward to reading your blog thru out the new year as I have so enjoyed it this one.

  • Reply
    December 24, 2009 at 1:40 am

    What a sweet story!
    I was picturing the setting in my mind while I read.
    Just made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

  • Reply
    December 23, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    I loved the story. It would be nice for Christmas to be simple again. Merry Christmas Tipper, from me and my family.

  • Reply
    December 23, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    What a sweet story. Sometimes I long for simpler times. blessings, marlene

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    December 23, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Great story! What wonderful memories!

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    December 23, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    By the way: We had a few toy-filled Christmases and we had many a hard candy Christmas when we were seven kids and Mom and Dad. We had nothing but oranges and tangerines and hard candy so many times that it came to be that Christmas could never be Christmas without them.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    December 23, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Tipper: What a great story with a special treat for the children.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    December 23, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    What a wonderful story, beautifully told. It’s hard to evade Christmas’ spirit when we hear such a remembrance. Thank you for sharing it with us and for Miss Eva’s sharing.

  • Reply
    Carolyn A.
    December 23, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    What a great Christmas story to share with us. Tipper, you outdo yourself everytime you share these.
    I remember oranges and apples in our stockings on the mantle. You bring me back to memories I love thinking about.
    Merry Christmas to the entire Blind Pig & The Acorn Family, and a safe and healthy New Year! xxoo

  • Reply
    December 23, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Merry Christmas Tipper,and all the rest of your brood!!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    December 23, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Enjoyed the story. I am not sure that we have progressed from those times. Oh, to really appreciate the little things like an orange again. My dad has talked about getting those Christmas oranges. Merry Christmas to the families of all.

  • Reply
    December 23, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Merry Christmas, Tipper.

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