Christmas Heritage Holidays in Appalachia

The Christmas Recital

violin christmas music

Today was Chatter’s first violin recital-to say she was excited is an understatement-to say we were proud of her is also an understatement. She did a fabulous job-as did all the musicians.

The program was titled Angels We Have Heard-most of the numbers were Christmas songs. As I watched Chatter play, I thought to myself, she will think of this recital each time she hears the songs she played. I guess you could say I realized Chatter was making music and making memories all at the same time.

When I think back through my Christmas memories-many are connected to music-but 2 stand out above the rest.

When I was in 2nd grade, Mrs. Sult was my teacher. I remember her classroom had praying mantis living in the windows; she washed out 2 boys mouths with soap for saying bad words; and I learned the Christmas song: Please put a penny in an old man’s hat, if you haven’t got a penny then a half a penny will do. All these years later, I can hear those words and instantly be a shy little girl with bangs cut too short standing in line along the concrete wall under the big windows in the back of the room singing with my classmates.

In my early teen years our church youth went caroling each Christmas. We piled into the back of a flat bed truck with rails and rode through the community stopping to sing at people’s homes-mostly elderly folks who couldn’t get out much.

I’m guessing I was about 13 or 14 the year we went to James’ house. He had been a strong presence in our church, serving as a deacon for many years (he was also an Appalachian character). He’d been sickly for a good while and was almost bed fast. I don’t remember what we sang at his house-but I’ll never forget that he came out onto the porch to get a better listen-his pajamas were striped, his body was weakened, but his spirit seemed to strengthen as we sung. Maybe he was thinking how nice it was for us to come round to his house-maybe he was pleased to see a whole bunch of young folks who would hopefully continue on the path he had helped forge.

Now that I’ve shared Chatter’s first recital-and 2 of my Christmas memories-I hope you’ll share one of yours.


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  • Reply
    delores (Rusty) ellis
    April 7, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Violin Recitles. Oh, boy. My
    granny got me going with a 1/4
    size fiddle just before I began
    K-Garten. I grew up like that
    violin was glued to my chin for
    years playing in school orchestras
    and then in to symphony orchestras
    in my home town and then into a
    local one when I went to college as a music major. Simmering down
    was after I got married and had
    3 kiddoes. BUT, when we all moved
    to the mountains of Boone, NC, my
    world went tipsy tovey. Yep, them
    old not trainin’ fiddle players
    made me nutsy cuckoo…….I had
    to embrace old timey music. The
    violin recitals became trompin’
    the road to fiddle festivals galore. Cloggin’ and yellin’ out
    became my now old gr granny ways
    to my bitter end. Rusty Ellis,
    The Fiddle Lady

  • Reply
    December 23, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    I bet Chatter’s a natural with the violin. I have a niece who takes violin lessons, too. I remember my grandma always put up a cedar tree for her Christmas tree. It was always covered with icicles, I loved the icicles on the trees.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    December 23, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Tipper: Thanks for the great photos and the stories from your Christmas time now and then.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 22, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Chatter was awesome!! I was so proud of her, I wanted to tell everyone there “that is my granddaughter!” And she’s only been playing a few months.
    I love seeing the girls involved in so many activities—singing, dancing, instruments, and volunteering at the homeless shelter. The girls are remarkable and so is their mother!

  • Reply
    December 22, 2009 at 5:41 am

    What a wonderful memory-making experience for Chatter. And you must be proud!
    Recently I have been thinking about the quiet times when I was young, during Christmas. I was in awe of the birth of Jesus. Of course, Santa too…but my heart was in the right place.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    December 21, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    Chatter, and you, and these girls of yours and all of your family … I sit in awe as I enjoy your wonderful site. She is so special; they are both so special; would that all families could be as blessed as you all are with one another. Merry, Merry Christmas to you, Tipper and to all of your precious family. You must get a big lump in your throat each time you think about her, there, playing, as your child and as a person come from your care.

  • Reply
    December 21, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Tipper, I loved reading this… Growing up in my house was a hard one, being poor and my father a drinking man, but my parents would sing together, and daddy would dance with my little sister and I. On his feet we would twirl, and as I grew into a young woman we would dance more and more, singing away…so music is a big part of my memories, and each time I come here I listen to ‘Shady Grove’…
    PS I have a link on my newest post, and the last one a story you should read if you get time…

  • Reply
    December 21, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    Chatter looks so pretty! What a great thing to know how to play the violin! I just loved your heart warming memories! Have a wonderful Christmas! blessings,Kathleen

  • Reply
    December 21, 2009 at 8:12 am

    What a lovely post! Your daughter making memories and your special memories of caroling to those shut in. How wonderful you could see the man’s spirit strengthened. Take care now!

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    December 20, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    So proud of Chatter for her playing and I’m sure she enjoyed it. Making memories – we seldom think of that when we are kids.
    Our Christmases always were special but I felt meloncholy for some strange reason even as a child. We often had a pine or cedar tree cut from on the farm. Mother bought balls and lights from the 5 and 10 cent store. She, my little sister, and I always decorated the tree. Looking back now, I realize they were pitiful looking compared to the beautiful trees I see today, but to two little girls back then, the tree was the prettiest, especially on Christmas morning when the baby dolls were placed so carefully beneath them.

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    December 20, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    I know she sounded wonderful! Great memories and pics of you! I remember going to all my cousins and aunts and getting the neatest presents like handmade stuffed animals.

  • Reply
    Carolyn A.
    December 20, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Chatter’s a very busy girl, but do you think she might do a violin performance on video for us?
    Love your Christmas pictures and your memories of singing.
    My favorite memory is of our Mom baking and hiding the sugar cookies down in our back room in a pillow case so we couldn’t sneak any. She also kept the Fanta bottles there for the same reason. It was unheated so it stayed nice and cold.
    As we got older and into puzzles, we’d take them to the nursing homes for the residents to enjoy. They were always full of smiles when we’d show up with the boxes. xxoo

  • Reply
    December 20, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    I just love your stories and how sweet that recognition that our children are building their memories as they go about their lives.

  • Reply
    Nancy Simpson
    December 20, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Most of my memories take place at my brother’s house which was the old Curtis hunting lodge in Miami Springs. He had one of the only fire places in Miami, I’d say, and no matter how warm, we always built a fire on Christmas eve. We always decorated the tree on Christmas eve, and as I’ve said before, my brother would not touch the tree, having slaved in merchandising for months, but he provided us the tallest tree and the most amazing decorations from around the world.
    What I remember most over the years is how we would go to all lengths to convince the young ones that Santa was real and would come even if it meant saying, “Listen, listen!” and watching the little ones as they heard the sleigh bells up on the roof. As I grew older and was on the side of the adults, I knew it was my father out there with some sleigh bells from somewhere. The year my sons were two and three, my dad said to me, “What makes you think it was me? I was resting on the bed in the back room. I heard it too. It was not me out there. It was Santa!”

  • Reply
    December 20, 2009 at 11:25 am

    I know how proud you must be. Way to go, Chatter!
    Some of my favorite Christmas memories were spent at my Grandmother’s, because all of my cousins would visit from out of state. Most of the time that’s the only time I seen them.

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    December 20, 2009 at 10:38 am

    p.s. How precious is the photo of you in the second grade! You just continued blossiming into the flower you are, Tipper! :))

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    December 20, 2009 at 10:32 am

    The recital must have been beautiful, Tipper! Will you be posting it? Will be beautiful to hear and see Chatter and her fellow musicians! Magic! :))

  • Reply
    Just Jackie
    December 20, 2009 at 9:10 am

    I’ve been having the same rememberings. LOL I went to a school that was 1st. thru 12th grade before we moved to town. Our Christmas programs all linked together in one special night. I was trying to think of all the programs I was in. Some I had forgotten but I have been lucky enough to find 2 friends from that time on Facebook and we have tried to pool our memories. My favorite memory of those programs was second grade when I was just in the choir. I was bored out of my mind and had memorized EVERYONE’s part in the play. The night of the performance I heard the teacher’s whispering that Ginny had come down with the measles and what were they going to do????? Then one of them remembered that I knew all the parts and I got to be the Jack of Hearts that stole the Christmas tarts. LOL

  • Reply
    December 20, 2009 at 8:45 am

    I remember going to my grandparents house as a child. The thing that stands out in my memory is the tree. Since cedar trees were a nuisance in pastures and there were no other evergreens in the area, the Christmas tree was cedar. Nothing fancy, but it had tinsel, lights, and a candy cane for each of the grandkids.

  • Reply
    Benny Watt Terry
    December 20, 2009 at 7:46 am

    I remember when I as ten years old, we went to my PaPa and MaMa’s house to decorate the Christmas tree. We tied ribbons on the tree and strung popcorn. MaMa and PaPa had five boys and two girls so with them and their kids there we had a crowd. I always spent the night and the bedroom was not heated; but I would sink down in the feather bed and never think about the cold. I miss those Christmas’.

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