A Real Appalachian Serenade
originally published December 2006 in Georgia Mountain Laurel
A Foxfire Christmas
tells about the holiday traditions of old—
before store-bought toys and Christmas trees and strings of electric
lights—stories gathered from community elders by local high school
students in the Foxfire Magazine
program who have worked tirelessly
for 40 years to preserve their unique Appalachian heritage.
Just gettin' out and going around, sneaking up to someone's house [was our entertainment at Christmastime. That's what we called serenading.] They didn't know nothing about it, and we'd just come up making the durndest noise you ever heard. If they was in bed, they just as well to get up. They shore to God couldn't sleep! We'd just keep on making noise until they got up and gave us something to eat. They'd always invite us in and feed us. They'd have something for us to eat and sometimes give us a present or something.
We'd never start out till about midnight. There'd be about twenty-five or thirty of us. The girls would join us, too, and we'd all go. We'd be sure everyone was in bed and had the lights all out. Everybody would make some kind of noise, one way or the other. You never heard such bells ringing, shooting, hollering, and beating old tin buckets and things. Take us half the night to get back after we got through serenading people; we might serenade a dozen and not get back until daybreak.
People in them days would have a cow and a horse, at least, in the stalls in the barn. While they were asleep that night, we'd take the horse out of one stall and put it in the cow's stall, and move the cow into the horse's stall. They'd go in there to milk the next morning—we liked to be there to watch—and there'd stand the ol' horse in the cow stall. Boy, they could get mad! They'd throw their milk bucket down on the ground. Us kids got a lotta kick out of that. We'd do all kinds of stuff like that. We'd move people's stuff, hide their axes or somethin' else. Whatever we could find loose, layin' out, we'd hide it. Wouldn't put it where he couldn't never find it, but he'd maybe have to hunt for two or three days.
Folks didn't care, though. Everybody else done it. Just like trick or treat here now on Halloween. It was just on that same basis—everybody done it. They'd just gather up, boys and girls, and they'd just take off. We thought if people ought to be serenaded, we'd give them a round. If anybody came in our settlement, they got serenaded whether they liked it or not.
A visit to the Foxfire Museum's gift shop could be the answer to your
gift-giving dilemmas. A quick trip "up the mountain" in Mountain City gives
a whole new range of gift items to choose from, including hand-woven
scarves, unique pottery and face jugs, and a lot more. For the nostalgic
or book-loving types, The Foxfire Book
series or something else from
the gift shop's extensive selection can be just the ticket for many
hours of fun and relaxing trips down "Memory Lane."
This story from Mr. Lawton Brooks is just one of many funny, touching, and colorful remembrances contained in A Foxfire Christmas, a collection of Christmas memories, traditions, recipes, and how-tos gathered by Foxfire students in the mid-1980s and released in book form in 1989. Containing chapters on traditional Appalachian decorations, serenading, gifts, food, traditions, and stories, A Foxfire Christmas conveys the spirit of the holiday season and the love of family and friends that are such important parts of our Appalachian home and heritage. Our newest release, The Foxfire 40th Anniversary Book—Faith Family, and the Land, also contains a short section of thoughts, stories, and memories of Christmas and other major holidays in the "Family" section of the book.
Share your mountain heritage this holiday season by giving your loved ones a copy of A Foxfire Christmas or any of the other Foxfire titles. Visit the gift shop at the Foxfire Museum to find any of our books and to browse through the large selection of local handicrafts, traditional toys, regional pottery, and more—all made right here in the Southern Appalachians by craftspeople who help keep our mountain heritage alive. To reach the Museum gift shop, turn onto Black Rock Mountain Parkway in Mountain City and, starting about one mile up, follow the brown signs to Foxfire Lane, and stop at the first log cabin you see. The Museum and shop are open Monday through Saturday, 8:30am—4:30pm.