This holiday season, ring in an Appalachian Christmas.
Christmas is a special time of year no matter where you are, but there seems to be something a little bit different about an Appalachian Christmas. Maybe it’s because many of the old traditions are still alive in these mountains. Perhaps it’s because snow falls infrequently enough in the South that when it does cover the ground on Christmas Eve, it feels especially magical to young and old alike.
A Fairy Tale Setting
Even on a green Christmas though, you can look out over the mountains and feel the wonder and awe of the season. As darkness falls, your neighbors’ windows light up with carefully placed candles, inspiring a feeling of peace and goodwill. The smell of wood smoke fills the air and mingles with the sharp scent of pine from the Christmas tree, bringing childhood memories to mind.
A bright handmade quilt draped across the sofa looks almost like stained glass in the soft glow of the Christmas lights. The children talk in excited whispers about what they might find in their stockings on Christmas morning. And to complete the scene, the distinctive sound of Appalachian music provides the soundtrack to it all.
Early settlers of the Appalachian Mountains brought more than their families and possessions with them when they came over from England, Scotland and Ireland. They brought their musical traditions and their yuletide traditions. Passed down from one generation to the next, these traditions were often more valuable than any of the cargo they carried.
Even today, it’s not uncommon to see Christmas trees in Appalachian homes decorated with berries, painted pinecones, paper chains, and other ornaments found in nature or hand-crafted at home. You can buy beautiful blown-glass and fiber-crafted ornaments in high-end boutiques or down-home craft fairs, but years ago, families created their ornaments in the privacy of their own homes.
A Joyful Noise
The settlers also brought with them the music they loved, a “joyful noise” of interwoven instruments. The music evolved over the decades into the unmistakable sound of Appalachian folk music that so many people still love to hear.
The clear tones of a hammer dulcimer. The deep, soothing beat of the upright bass. The fiddle that can go from wistful and slow to lively and dancing with just a flick of the wrist. Appalachian music makes your favorite Christmas carols come to life.
Wherever you find yourself for Christmas this year, add a few notes of Appalachia to your Christmas music playlist. Make a pot of steaming hot cocoa, gather your family close, and enjoy the music of a time when life was a little simpler, but no less sweet. Here are a few songs to get you started:
- I’m Going Home, It’s Christmas Time by Ralph Stanley
- Come All Ye Faithful by Dogwood Daughter
- Carol of the Bells by Mark O’Connor
- Christmas Time’s A-Comin’ by Emmylou Harris
- Breakin’ Up Christmas by Boogertown Gap
- Christmastime on Rocky Top by The Osborne Brothers
- That’s Christmas Time to Me by Bill Monroe
- Christmastime Back Home by The Country Gentlemen
- Silent Night by Southern Dogwood
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Lynn Morris