Appalachia Christmas


The pressley girls serenading

The Pressley Girls – Pine Log NC

serenade noun, serenading verbal noun
1 A raucous, spontaneous celebration after a wedding, usu late on the wedding night and at the residence of the newly married couple, characterized by the beating of post and pans, ringing of cowbells, and various pranks
2 A similar celebration moving from house to house in the community on Christmas Eve or other holiday.
1939 Hall Coll. Cades Cove TN Serenadin’ = men would go from one house to another, makin’ lots of noise, ringin’ cowbells, shootin’ guns. (Cora Myers) 1960 Mason Memoir 75 On Christmas eve night, it was customary for a group of young men to gather up and go serenading. We would take along all the old cowbells, muzzle loading shotguns, horns, and any other noise making device which was available. There were always three or four banjoes and fiddles in the crowd. We would try to slip up to someone’s house without being discovered. The serenade would usually begin with a long blast from a trumpet. The trumpets were usually made from rams horns. Then the firing of the shotguns combined with the ringing cowbells added to the commotion. If a family were somehow missed by the serenaders, they felt as if they had been slighted.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


The photo above was taken on a hot July night just over the mountain in Pine Log. The girls were doing some serenading, but not in the manner the dictionary describes. They were playing for a dear friend’s 80th birthday.

Its been several years or more since I first read the serenading entry from the dictionary. Since that time, I’ve dreamed about going out serenading on Christmas Eve or at least at some point during the holiday season. Although my dream hasn’t been fulfilled yet, I’m hopeful that someday it will and I’m sure The Pressley Girls will be along for the trip.



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  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 29, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Does a few sticks of dynamite on Christmas or New Years Eve count as a serenade? If so then I am guilty.

  • Reply
    December 29, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    Amanda-thank you for the comment! NO Im not familiar with the Brasstown Brigade-thank you so much for telling me about them. I may have seen them at the folk schools New Years Eve celebration but I didnt realize they were a group. I thought they were just part of the folk school celebrators : ) Im so excited to know that there are still folks serenading and tickled pink to know they are right here in Brasstown. Maybe I can tag along with them someday. Have a great evening : )

  • Reply
    December 29, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Tipper, are you familiar with the Brasstown Brigade? The annual time they go out is New Year’s Eve—with their muzzle loading rifles, and Dr. Dan Stroup sings (a capella) sings a tune before each presentation. They usually go to the Folk School, somebody’s house/party, Possum Drop, and Doyle’s. I had them at my wedding. Sometimes they go to someone’s new house or some special event. I wonder if that would be a bit like what you are talking about with the serenading. It’s mighty noisy (kills your ears when those guns go off). My favorite part is Dan Stroup’s singing this one tune. I can listen to that over and over and never tire of it. Some of the folks that usually participate are my husband Michael Kelischek, Dan Stroup, George Heilner, Dave Peters. I am guessing you are familiar with this group?

  • Reply
    December 29, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    I’m with Ken: definition 1 sounds like a shivaree; definition 2 sounds like going caroling. Haven’t participated in a shivaree except in the musical Oklahoma!; that production had boys and girls making a ruckus. Most times (including after my Mom and Dad got married) its just the guys who make the noise – and sometimes “steal” the bride.
    Since sometime in high school I’ve gone caroling with one group or another (usually a church group) most Christmases until the last 3. I miss it!!!!!
    I always thought “serenading” had a romantic connotation but by Jackie’s definition I guess I serenade from time to time – usually at a shut-ins house or a nursing home.
    Guess it doesn’t matter what you call it as long as all participants (giving and receiving) are enjoying themselves!

  • Reply
    December 29, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    Those girls come from Good Stock, and are always ready and willing to do whatever for the Community.
    I heard Donna Lynn play a couple of Ray and Pap’s songs this morning. One was my Favorite about helping some Pilgrim along the way. I think the other one was “Kneel At the Cross”. You’d be lucky to find a Christian Radio Station like ours. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 29, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Hmmmm I thought that was a shiviree. Or is that term reserved for newly married couples? Anyway, it sounds like a fun custom, much better than trick or treat.
    Our church goes caroling before Christmas. That is as close as we have come to serenading. We have had a few memorable moments along the way. Once a hound dog started howling. We wonder till yet whether we hurt its ears or if it just wanted to help. Hope that never happens to you all.
    Remember the John Wayne movie where the troppers gathered up under the window and serenaded him and his wife?

  • Reply
    December 29, 2016 at 9:58 am

    I’ve been involved in serenading most of my life. I still take children to nursing homes and to homes of shut-ins. I call friends and family on their birthdays and sing “Happy Birthday” to them.

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