Tag: Christmas

  1. Food, Family, and Community: Celebrating Christmas in the Great Smoky Mountains

    Celebrating Christmas in the Great Smoky Mountains

    With the Christmas holiday approaching, I thought it only fitting to delve into the history of Christmas celebrations in the Great Smoky Mountains. Rather than consult our traditional archival collections, I decided to plumb the depths of the parks extensive oral history collection to learn how these mountain folk celebrated Christmas in the decades immediately before the establishment of the park. While some of these reminiscences reminded me of stories I’d heard growing up in Texas, others were certainly unique to Southern Appalachia, and some even prompted me to say “I had no idea.”

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  2. Looking towards tomorrow: memories of a holiday hike in the Smokies by Elizabeth Giddens

    Winter in the Smokies

    When I was in grad school at the University of Tennessee in the 1980s, I usually came back to Knoxville from the Christmas break before New Year’s. Doing so gave me a week to get ready for the next quarter at school, plan for classes I would be teaching, clean my drafty and dusty Ft. Sanders apartment, get groceries in, and goof off some. Even so, my hiking friends and I usually found time for a day hike, an all-day one—an extravagance that would not come often once the pressures of classes took over our lives. Another draw was that the park was quiet in January—it was not leaf season, not wildflower time, no rhododendrons blooming. Few folks were on the trails, so we could get a long hike in and be away from care as well as traffic and, well, people.

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  3. Why Some Mountain Children had to Wait an Extra 11 Days for Christmas

    Christmas at Smokies

    During the early to mid 19th-century, in some remote areas of the Great Smoky Mountains and elsewhere in rural America, Christmas might be celebrated in January, not December. Stranger still, one of the old Christmas traditions was to stay up until midnight of Christmas Eve (January 5) and go into the barn to witness the farm animals praying. According to lore (and "The Homecoming" by Earl Hamner of "The Walton's" fame <watch HERE at minute 3), on midnight of Christmas Eve all of the animals would begin bellowing and baaing and whinnying and crying out in their animal voices in a cacophony of barnyard prayer. Some believe this tradition relates back to Jesus being born in a manger where farm animals were present.

    The reason that Christmas was observed in January is related to the switch between the old “Julian calendar” and the newer “Gregorian calendar” in the 16th to 18th centuries. In days gone by, people had a much harder time keeping track of the year. Hence all those stone circles in fields, slits in castle walls, etc. The fact that moon phases are always cycling and that there are actually 365 and ¼ days in a year really complicates matters over time.

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