A Time For Getting Together
originally published December 2007 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.
My father was one of the fortunate people during the Depression years—before my teen years. I don't mean we were wealthy or anything like that, but we did have a regular income. We knew the money was coming. He had a job as a fire warden for the North Carolina Forest Service.
We had the same dolls—my sister and I—year after year, but Mother made new clothes for them at Christmas. Another thing that contributed to our Christmas was the fact that my mother had a sister who never married. The first yo-yo I ever saw came in a package from Aunt Louise at Christmas. She always included clothes, dresses, scarves, gloves, and things like that, but there'd be some foolishness, too. And always peanut brittle. She always sent peanut brittle. But not everybody had an Aunt Louise, and we knew we were very fortunate to have her.
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. We made a lot of ornaments 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 in packages to us. We'd make star to go on top of the tree at 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 of 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.
When I was growing up, we almost always had Christmas dinner at my grandmother's. We'd go to her house for dinner in a buggy or a covered wagon, and we'd have a heated stone in the wagon to keep our feet warm. Usually, about that time of year, we were killing hogs, so Mother would cook a pork loin roast for Christmas. I'd still rather have it than turkey. Mother would cook the pork roast and bring it and all the baking she'd done, and we'd go to Grandmother's. One of my aunts lived up the road with her big family, and they would come down to Grandmother's, so it was bedlam there! Just a big family. Christmas was really just a time for everybody getting together.
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 Mrs. Margaret Bulgin 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 (mostly home-made), serenading (not like you imagine today), gifts (the simple, meaningful kind), food (recipes and more), traditions of the holidays, 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 the heritage of the mountains 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 & Heritage Center to find any of our books and to browse through the large selection of local handicrafts, traditional toys, regional pottery, home-made soaps, 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. If you have questions or need extra directions, please call Foxfire at 706-746-5828.