Christmas Holidays in Appalachia

The Greening Of Christmas

Do you go green at Christmas? Oh I’m not talking about going green for environmental reasons-I’m talking about the age old tradition of decorating with fresh greenery.

I remember a Sunday School teacher I had as a child detailing the importance of using fresh (or fake if you had too) greenery during the Christmas holidays. After all, she said, God instructed Isaiah to adorn the sanctuary with fir, cypress, and pine in the Old Testament-so we should too.

Today-people generally associate mistletoe, holly, magnolia leaves and evergreen trees with the greening of Christmas. Last weekend I joined in with the John C. Campbell Folk School’s yearly Greening of the Grounds for Christmas.

What fun we had-all working together like little Christmas Elves. While I enjoyed the decorating-I think what I enjoyed most-was knowing I was taking part in an annual tradition.

One other thought I had-if you are interested in having a ‘green’ Christmas for the environment-how perfect is using fresh greenery. You borrow from nature’s bounty-then when Christmas is over-you throw it all on the compost pile-and there you go-an environmentally friendly way to decorate for Christmas. Of course I can’t resist pointing out-using nature’s gifts to decorate for Christmas-is a make do with what you’ve got sort of thing-and that’s something folks in Appalachia were good at way before it became cool to be green.

Check back over the coming days for more Christmas traditions from Appalachia.

Do you continue the age old tradition of ‘greening’ for Christmas at your house?



You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    lynn legge
    December 11, 2010 at 12:03 am

    ahh tipper i would so love to be there to help with the decorations.. here in pa where i live there arent many pine trees.. and holly.. hmmm i think only when we visited the mountains i saw that.. would be so nice to go to your yard and find all the goodies to make decorations.. and the potato.. who knew? lol you are all talented and inventive people..
    thanks for sharing and i wish you and your family and all a blessed and happy holiday and new year
    big big ladybug hugs…
    (least ladybug shells are red lol)

  • Reply
    December 10, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Oh I only wished I lived closer to the school. That sounds like it was a fun day!

  • Reply
    December 10, 2010 at 11:10 am

    I love the red and green at Christmas time, too. I like poinsettias and holly.

  • Reply
    Rhonda J.
    December 10, 2010 at 10:05 am

    I have decorated for years with pine,love the look and smell. Nothing says “Old-fashioned Christmas” like fresh pine and other greens! Also like to use oranges,apples and pinecones. Mother Nature has the best decorations!:) Love the Christmas Music on here,also!

  • Reply
    December 10, 2010 at 9:04 am

    sorry to say we don’t do greening anymore, it is just me and hubby and i just don’t have the get up and go to do it. this sounds like you had a wonderful time decoratin and it is all very pretty

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    December 10, 2010 at 5:47 am

    We do an artificial tree, but a short walk in our woods furnishes us with fresh greens that I put around the house for an added touch and lovely smell.

  • Reply
    December 9, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    I loved decorating with greenery when I was younger and in our beautiful home in SW GA. Pine and cedar smell so good inside the house. I’ll use some greens this year, but mostly fake inside.
    I know that decorating at JCCFS must have been so much fun.

  • Reply
    December 9, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Oh yes! We love decorating with fresh greens, I think it’s the scent we love most. I like the part about you being green before it was even cool, it made me chuckle.

  • Reply
    Emily Stephens
    December 9, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    a potato makes a great weight and
    an easy holder for all the greanery
    you cn find in the mountains, from
    pine, fir, holly and candles can be
    added. We decorated the church and
    our home like this in the 50’s & 60’s when God’s cration was the only available source. The potato
    will last 2 – 3 weeks, along with the greenery. Have fun and be

  • Reply
    December 9, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    I remember this as a child. I hope you are staying warm and having a wonderful holiday season.

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    December 9, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Tipper: my neighbor phil who makes the great gardens that serve me so well, also has enough christmas light,s for a small city so im spared the delight of greening. however we have a wreath on the door and nativity scene in the living room. and we spend a lot of time at church this time of year. but im thankful for good old phil, i hope you all have a blessed,and joyful holiday. k.o.h

  • Reply
    December 9, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Those natural decorations are really beautiful. I just love the
    things that are made from natural
    resources and how the make the house smell so good. Since my daughters and granddaughters live a long way from here, I don’t decorate at the house anymore. But
    I enjoy driving through the neighborhood at night seeing how
    everyone else shares their Christmas celebration…Ken

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    December 9, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Last year while all our family was gathered at the house on Christmas Eve afternoon. Lots of commotion and chatter – fun, but being the hillbilly that I am, I also cherish time alone. I decided to take a walk in the wood near the house to listen to the silence and collect a little fresh air. It occurred to me when leaving the house that I remembered seeing a variety of greenery over in the woods. So I grabbed me a poke, and filled it up with stuff like ground cedar, some nandinas that had managed to hang on for decades as evidence of an old home place,a bit of pine and cedar (including cones and berries), some sumac berries and the like – even a bit of honeysuckle to tie things together.
    Mine was certainly not the finest-looking wreath you ever saw (to say that my craft skills are nonexistent would be a gross overstatement). But I absolutely enjoyed doing it.
    I think a major reason for the pleasure was recollecting Mama doing the same sort of thing (although she’d do the decorating well before Christmas Eve). Now I have never met a grown-up who got as excited about Christmas as Mama. It occurred to me that in spite of the poor craftmanship, at least the shape of the wreath was right – sort of a closing of the circle, linking to the past. So irrespective of the appearance, it brought a great joy to my heart (and maybe a smile or two to my family).

  • Reply
    Nancy Wigmore
    December 9, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Oh, Tipper, this brought back so many happy memories of my childhood. I can see it now…the pine needle, cedar, holly berry branch decoration on the front door of our old wood frame house…the pine tree decorated in our little living room…lots of good fiddle, mandolin, banjo playing and singing going on…Thanks so much for your posts. Simple reminder of pleasant childhood memories. Have a wonderfully blessed Christmas. Prayerfully, Nancy

  • Reply
    December 9, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    I haven’t really done much with fresh greenery. I have added a little holly on my old buffet and think a little closer to Christmas I’ll probably add some fresh magnolia leaves. You’ll have to post some photos of your decorating!

  • Reply
    December 9, 2010 at 11:56 am

    I am ashamed to say that I do not “green” it up. I basically have my few boxes of decorations in the basement that I pull out every year & decorate. I have pine trees around but never thought to take a bit from them for decoration. I don’t know exactly what I would do with a simple pine tree branch…any ideas?

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    December 9, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Hey Tipper: What a refreshing NON_WALMART notion! Hemlock, boxwood and ‘so forth’ was certainly all we had in the Cove as we decorated for Christmas! Of course we had ‘strung’ popcorn which we had only recently gathered from the field!
    I am going to share your thoughts with my brother in Afghanistan – as he prepares for a CHRISTMAS PARTY for the troops at Bagram Air Base. He says the sand storms are seemingly constant now! It hasn’t rained since Sring!
    He sent an ‘invitation’ for folks to send gifts so everyone would receive a gift! His little shack is filled with boxes – MAYBE FIFTY BOXES sent from NC, GA, KY and of course TENNESSEE!
    They are planning a great singing of Christmas carols for the recently arrived General from Kentucky! He says they are polishing up their BILL MONROE favorites!
    Have a wonderful CHRISTMAS!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 9, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Tipper, I live alone and do not decorate. However I will come to your home for a few days just before Christmas. I do so much enjoy your decorations. Your home is so lovely for Christmas with beautiful things in every room. It’s a Christmas wonderland!

  • Reply
    Julie at Elisharose
    December 9, 2010 at 9:14 am

    I do. Usually a mixture of real and artificial. I’ll wait a week or so before adding the fresh, so it will last through Christmas.

  • Leave a Reply