Appalachia Christmas

The Christmas Serenade

Apple stacks at christmas

“On Christmas Eve night, we’d all go a-serenadin’. We went from house to house. We’d put on different old clothes, you know, and carry things to beat on and cowbells to ring-all things to make noise. We went up to one place, and the man told his wife, ‘Lula, just carry the bed out and give ’em some room.’ It was a great big room, and they cleared it out for dancin’ and playin’ games. And some of ’em did dance. I didn’t though. It was against my religion, but my brother would play the harmonica. They’d turn the big room over to us. We’d all play games like go in and out the windows and spin the bottle, and I can’t remember what all. We’d be there ’til midnight. We’d play tricks on people, too, and my brother helped do that. One place where we went to dance and play games had two big horses with white faces. Those boys took shoe polish and painted them black! They painted those horses’ faces! Those folks never said a word about it. We had a big dinner on Christmas Day but not on Christmas Eve. We didn’t have no cakes then because we cooked over a fireplace. But Mother made a great big stack of apple pies out of dried apples and a great big, high stack of pumpkin custards.”

—-Nora Garland, Fall 1985 from the The Foxfire 40th Anniversary Book.


I know about the game spin the bottle but I wonder the game go in and out the windows. If you know about the game please leave a comment and tell us about it.

Nora’s brother painting the horses faces along with the serenading reminds me of an old post. I’ll pull it out from the Blind Pig & The Acorn archives and share it with you.

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  • Reply
    December 17, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    We played In and Out the Windows in school as children. It’s somewhat difficult to explain.
    There’s an explanation of it here –
    And there’s a fair representation of it here on Youtube here –
    Although I recall, partners (the first player and their first “love”) going the next round of in and out the “windows” holding hands to the end of the rhyme, with the first dropping off and rejoining the circle at the place of the new “love” as the second player began measuring and professing their new love.
    Because it was more often played with boys and girls, the circle was often boy/girl, boy/girl though it didn’t need to be, and it would get a lot of laughs with some of the bolder participants sometimes “measuring” more embarrassing body parts (although rules could be set for that), but most particularly when a round ended up with a boy kneeling before another boy professing his love and “measuring,” then holding hands and doing the windows to the next “love”. (Hey, it was the 60s, we weren’t very PC then.)
    The game usually ended in a round of giggles.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    December 16, 2014 at 10:55 pm

    I remember playing in and out the window. everyone formed a circle. One child would be selected to start as the leader, weaving through the windows.
    –the words were:
    go in and out the window,
    go in and out the window,
    go in and out the window,
    as we have done before.
    When the last line was sung, the leader would tap someone on the shoulder to follow him/her, holding hands as they both wove through the “windows” ( under the joined hands of those in the circle). As each verse was sung, another person would be tapped until everyone except the last one not tapped would be following the leader. I don’t remember how it ended, though.

  • Reply
    Frank Vincent
    December 16, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    I at first was trying to recollect from my childhood days in elementary school and the weaving of the ribbon streamers we would wind around the “May-Pole” as we’d sing a song…but for the life of me I cannot recall it? Don’t you hate it when that happens?!?! So, I decided to “aid my memory” and google the title “Go In and Out the Window” and voila:
    Go in and out the window,
    Go in and out the window,
    Go in and out the window,
    And see what you can see!
    Now, stand and face a partner,
    Now, stand and face a partner,
    Now, stand and face a partner,
    And see what you can see!
    • All stand in a circle with hands joined and arms held high to form the “windows”.
    • One person weaves in and out of people in the circle, going under the joined hands during verse 1.
    • During verse 2, this person stands in front of someone else in the circle.
    • This person takes the place of the original “weaver”.
    • Same as version one, except that after the “weaver” chooses a partner, they both go around the circle during the next round.
    • Then, each partner chooses a new partner (total of four) for the third round.
    • Continue in such fashion until no one is left!
    Credit to Kristin Hall.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    December 16, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    I haven’t thought of Go In and Out the Window in ages! Twisty fun game. Happy Christmas!

  • Reply
    December 16, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Usually by Christmastime around here it’s too blooming cold to open any windows. I never heard of that game either, but I know about Christmas caroling that use to go on. Thanks for another story from the Foxfire books.
    The radio weather girl said we
    might get some Snow Thursday
    before turning to rain…Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 16, 2014 at 10:30 am

    In elementary school we used to have a little dance wherein the participants would go in opposite circles weaving in and out while singing “♫♪ in and out the window ♪♫”

  • Reply
    e. Arnold
    December 16, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Garry’s tin kettlin is what we call a shivaree in the good old US of A. I don’t know about the invitation to come inside though. You might be invited to leave by the barrel of a 12 gauge.

  • Reply
    December 16, 2014 at 9:33 am

    Tin kettlin’ in Australia is known as a ‘shiveree’ (sp?) in the Oklahoma (even featured in the movie, Oklahoma!)–tho’ I’ve never heard of a meal being a part of it.
    I look forward to learning what the game ‘in and out the windows’ is!

  • Reply
    December 16, 2014 at 9:33 am

    “Go In and Out the Windows”: A circle, sing-song game where all join hands and a ‘bridge’ (ie. London Bridges)is held by joining hands above the heads for couples to duck under and continue the circle.

  • Reply
    Aggie Tater
    December 16, 2014 at 9:02 am

    This here is a conundrum for me! How can one not dance, due to being against her religion? (no problem there)Then say, we’d play games like “spin the bottle” and “go in and out the windows”?
    Maybe this isn’t the same game of “spin the bottle”, from the forties and fifties that I recall!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 16, 2014 at 8:44 am

    I thought Go in and Out the Windows was a dance song/call. I seem to remember weaving in and out in and around the circle when we were just kids. I had a teacher in third grade that was very much into traditional songs, games and dances. When it was raining we were singing, playing rhyme games or doing a folk type dances and songs. We stayed friends into my adult years, a wonderful teacher!
    I just had to look this one up on the Teachers Songs For Teaching website. I am sure it is in my book of games on the Kindle but it is charging this morning…Here is the song I found with the words:
    I am pretty sure this is the song and game Nora is referring to.
    We used to have a get together on Christmas eve! Our family didn’t exchange presents but some families do. Only in the case that one member could not be there on Christmas day and family present opening. We usually played games, ate a late supper or just had snack sandwiches, etc. It was also a celebration of sorts, my oldest child was born on Christmas Eve so we always had cake and a birthday celebration for him as well!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS..I hope this helps. I will hunt down the game when Kindle gets charged up!

  • Reply
    December 16, 2014 at 8:26 am

    In and Out the Window: Everyone lines up holding hands but spreading out a comfortable reach. The leader at one end then begins weaving in and out the line from his or her end and pulling the rest of the line behind so that the line is turning in on itself. All the while the group is singing “Go in and out the window, go in and out the window, go in and out the window, as we have done before”. The weaving wasn’t done rhythmically and there were other verses which I can’t remember at the moment. I think at some point the window got “shut” but this is such a vague recollection that I can’t be sure that my imagination is not embellishing my memory a little bit. Whatever you do, don’t break the line!!

  • Reply
    December 16, 2014 at 8:09 am

    I vaguely remember the game (in and out the windows), but I can’t remember how we played it. I think it was a semi-circle game and one would go under the hand holding of two people and circle around. It got to be a bit confusing if one wasn’t paying attention.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 16, 2014 at 7:48 am

    Tipper, I think Go In and Out the Window is a song and dance done while singing the song. The dance is done in a line holding hands and involves a lot of weaving around, in and out, thus the title.

  • Reply
    Garry Ballard
    December 16, 2014 at 5:47 am

    That bell ringing and so forth sounds like an old custom in the Australian bush called tin kettlin’. On a couple’s wedding night the friends and family of the bride and groom would come around after dark and bang on pots and pans and assorted cookware to wake them up . Then the couple would invite them all in for supper which was always expected.

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