Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Appalachian Christmas Traditions--online sources

The Appalachian region has some unique holiday traditions, stories and crafts that have found their way to the internet. I pulled together the following list of sites that offer a good insight into the life of mountain people and holiday celebrations both past and present.

Appalachian Voice provides an excellent article on the roots of many traditions in the mountains. For example, did you know that "An Old World favorite was to build a bonfire on a hilltop, a practice that was either supposed to summon the Druids or speed the return of the sun."

How about anvil shooting? Who would have thought that could be a sport, and a Christmas tradition to boot? If you think it sounds dangerous, read about it and see if your hunch is right!

Appalachian State University has a site that lists information from Ward's Store in North Carolina that provides an interesting glimpse into what people were doing for Christmas in the early 1900's.

An annotated list of Appalachian Christmas books for children and teens is listed on the Ferrum College Appalachian literature website. This site has a wealth of information on other topics related to Appalachian studies.

Although some of the information from a 2002 online newsletter from Mast General Store seems to be repeated on the Appalachian Voice website, it's worth a read because there are a few more tidbits here.

The Mountain Laurel newsletter has a section for seasonal stories. Included are stories of growing up in the mountains and more. I particularly like the Christmas Country Kitchen that offers directions for making a variety of country Christmas items, including a spice wreath and bird treats.

The Italian traditions of Christmas are alive and well in parts of West Virginia. Robert Tinnell's Feast of the Seven Fishes blog has recipes, music, memories, opinions and more.

One of my favorite sites, The Hur Herald from Calhoun County, West Virginia, has a searchable database of past articles. A quick search on Christmas yielded a view of how Christmas has been celebrated over the past decade in a very rural part of West Virginia--it's a snapshot of life in the hills, not scholarly dissertation. I've spent several hours on the Hur Herald site in the past few months, because I enjoy the distinct view of the world the Herald offers. One of the benefits of the internet is this ability to learn about small communities that don't make the national news but have thriving, deeply rooted traditions that live on outside of the spotlight.

Enough for now!

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