Tag: Culture

  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. Where People Loved and Cared

    Great Smoky Mountains of Southern Appalachia Cemetery

    Life in the Great Smoky Mountains of Southern Appalachia was never easy. Before the establishment of the park, many families lived a hard scrabble existence, working close to the land to make a life. In times of plenty and in times of want the specter of death was ever present. Disease and accident claimed the lives of mountaineers regularly. Limited medical knowledge and access to doctors resulted in stillborn babies or mother and child perishing during childbirth. While these losses were devastating for the families, the communities where these families lived suffered as well. In communal suffering, families, friends, and neighbors came together in order to help and heal.

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  3. Sorghum-making demonstrations return to the Smokies

    GATLINBURG, Tenn. — As cool air slowly creeps in and the leaves begin to change, it can only mean one thing – it’s sorghum making time in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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  4. Smokies Life Fall 2018: Stories of History, Culture and Survival

    Smokies Life Fall 2018 Edition

    GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Great Smoky Mountains Association’s most recent issue of its award-winning Smokies Life magazine features an in-depth look at new groundbreaking bear research unique to Great Smoky Mountains National Park; the first four chapters of Willa of the Wood, a new best-selling fiction set in the Smokies; 10 compelling archival treasures stored at the Collections Preservation Center; and a comprehensive list of essential preparation techniques for staying safe while exploring the backcountry. 

    “Having lived in both Western North Carolina and East Tennessee, I enjoy sharing stories about the natural and cultural history of the Smokies with our readers,” said Frances Figart, interpretive products and services director and the editor of Smokies Life. “One of my favorite pieces in this issue is David Brill’s first-hand account of a recent trail mishap and rescue as it highlights the importance of being prepared while simultaneously expecting the unexpected in the Smokies.” 







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  5. 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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