Appalachia Christmas

Tin Foil Wrapped Star


“Course we didn’t have any electric lights, so our Christmas trees didn’t look like they do now. We were never allowed to use candles. They’re just so tricky. And Father, being in the fire-fighting business, wasn’t about to let us do that anyway. Aunt Louise provided ornaments, maybe sent some in packages to us, but we made a lot of them at home out of craft paper—mostly chains. Mother would bake gingerbread men. I remember very well a little sheep, a cookie cutout, that she made of gingerbread. We hung those on the tree. We made everything except for a few store-bought ornaments that Aunt Louise sent us. We’d make a star to go on top of the tree in school. Always before Christmas holidays, we were doing these things in school and bringing them home. I can remember when the first tin foil came out. We cut a star out cardboard and covered it in tin foil. It still makes a pretty star. That was the first one I remember. We used that star for years.”

Margaret Bulgin – “A Foxfire Christmas”


I treasure the Christmas ornaments the girls made in school. The teachers at Martins Creek School really outdid themselves on helping kids make ornaments. Every Christmas I hang those little mementos on my tree. I usually show them to the girls to remind them what their little hands made so many years ago.

“A Foxfire Christmas” is one of my favorite books about Christmas in Appalachia. You can jump over to the Foxfire site and see the book here.


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  • Reply
    Mary Lou NcKillip
    December 9, 2018 at 11:11 am

    Tipper my first grade teacher Mrs Sales had bubbling light shape like a candle with a bade I had never seen these in stores or I have never seen them since Mother was sick and I would slip off and go to school. Mrs sales let me sit in her class room. I had a pencil and pad I copied off all she would write on board she told my mother she could have passed me if I had been of age and enrolled in first grade

  • Reply
    December 9, 2018 at 9:39 am

    Paper chains played a big part in the Christmas preparations of my childhood, and I still think a paper chain is one of the prettiest decorations ever, and fun to make for “children of all ages” 🙂

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 9, 2018 at 1:29 am

    We made star toppers out of cardboard and tinfoil…It was quite a few years before Mom bought one of those plastic like stars…Then there was the electric star…and later flashing star and angels…
    A cedar is the best smelling tree…for me..Not crazy about the week branches for hanging heavier ornaments though..
    I still think the best iciles are those old metal ones from the forties fifties..they were heavy and if one took the time to hang them just so…they were beautiful on the tree…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    L. A. Rickman
    December 8, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    Pray all you, not met yet, friends in Appalachia are safe , warm and well protected from the snow & ice storm we’re hearing about. May the Good Lord bless you.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 8, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    Bringing home a Christmas from the mountains? If you live in the Eastern US and buy the most popular variety, the Frazier fir, there is a very good possibility you will be bringing home one from these mountain counties in North Carolina, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey.
    It might not be your old daddy who cut and dragged it in but it is likely someone’s. Old mountain farmers whose rocky worn out hillsides have turned to one of the most admired crops known to make a living. Not pot, Mary Jane! Christmas trees!

  • Reply
    carol harrison
    December 8, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    My friend Betsy Evelyn Slone Summers, self published a memoir about living and growing growing up in Appalachia. Your post today reminded me of her story of her father bringing home the Christmas tree that he got on the mountain. If you would be interested in reading her book it is available at daughterof , and Sadly she is now if failing health and no longer writes.

    I took a memoir writing class from her. I have written my own stories of growing up in western Pa. We became friends while I was taking her class at the local Arts Center here. She grew up in Beckley, W.V. Her father was a coal miner. She published this in 2012.

  • Reply
    December 8, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    My earliest memory of Christmas is the smell of the cedar tree, especially after it got hot from the big lights we used to decorate it. We made popcorn garland and a few other handmade decorations. My aunt bought angel hair for her tree one year and it nearly itched us to death, but I don’t think I had ever seen such a pretty sight. I still like to hang the silver icicles on my tree if I can find them. That reminds me of an old timey Christmas.

  • Reply
    Dana Wal
    December 8, 2018 at 11:22 am

    I remember during the war years of the forties there were no ornaments to be had because they had been made in Japan. We made ornaments out of carefully split English walnut shells. Dad drilled tiny holes at the top of each half, we painted the insides with various colors, then hung them on the tree with a thin wire through the hole. We also had a few surviving glass ornaments, but it seemed at least a couple got broken each year.

    Replacement tree light were also scarce. We turned ours on only briefly each evening and then left them on for an hour or so on Christmas Eve.

    Today I am amused by the controversy over “real” vs. “artificial” trees.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    December 8, 2018 at 10:51 am

    I’ve seen several of those tin foil stars but have never made one.
    We didn’t have money to buy a Christmas tree so we always cut one ourselves. We could usually find a well shaped black pine, but one year Dad while out hunting brought home a spruce pine (hemlock) he cut it down with a 12 gauge shotgun. Another time we had a cedar tree. It made a beautiful Christmas tree but was awful sticky.

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney
    December 8, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Margaret Bulgin’s comments described the life style of most families back during those times. “Make Do With What You Have!”

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 8, 2018 at 9:12 am

    I had forgotten about the cardboard and foil stars. We made those when we were kids. I still think homemade is best because they have those priceless memories attached. We really need those reminders of what is really important, faith, family and friends.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 8, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Tip, You always have the most beautiful Christmas Tree ever! It’s always so filled with memories and thoughtfulness. Everything on your tree is the real deal, made with hands and love, not things out of a box from the store!
    I always look forward to seeing your tree every year and this year did not disappoint! That set of antlers on top was certainly a personal touch…and I knew immediately whose touch it was! LOL!

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