Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Book Review: Christmas in the Mountains

Christmas in the Mountains by Hubert Davis. Johnson Publishing Company, Murfreesboro, NC. 1972.

I was a happy woman when I found this title at a used book dealer's booth at the West Virginia Book Festival. I had never heard of Mr. Davis or his book before, and after letting loose of about $40 I was the proud owner of a signed copy.

Hubert Davis based this book on the work of writers during the WPA and his personal and community recollections of Christmas celebrations in the southwestern Virginia mountains. He rounded out the collection of with bits of Christmas history and lore from various places in the world which might be considered the place of origin for many people in the Appalachian region.

The book combines family stories, poems, songs, superstitions, sayings, and some very generalized history into short, readable chapters. There is a section on New Years Day customs and beliefs and a wide-ranging appendix containing seemingly random information about the holidays. Annotations are few, although there is an extensive bibliography.

I am intrigued by superstitions, so the chapter on Christmas superstitions especially interested me. Did you know, for example, that:
  • it is bad luck for a cat to meow on Christmas?
  • you should never give anyone a coal of fire or even a match on Christmas?
  • Ashes from the Christmas fire should not be thrown out that day?
  • it is good luck to eat mincemeat pie or stack cake on Christmas day?
  • Never let your fire go out on Christmas day, or evil spirits could enter your home (unless, of course, you were protected by your blue bottle bush!)

Now you will have to read this book to find out what else you should and should not do during the holidays. Used copies are available for $9.00 and up from some booksellers on ALibris.

That would be $31 less than I paid for my copy.

Humph. Bah humbug. But I'm still happy to have my copy, even at the price I paid for it. I think it's an unusual find.


Janet, said...

Now this sounds like a book I would like. I guess I'll have to make Grandma's stack cake on Christmas for good luck.

Granny Sue said...

Be sure to save me a bite of that cake! I still haven't found a recipe for it--it's not in any of my cookbooks, not even the Foxfire one.

Matthew Burns said...

I remember when I ran into you at the book festival right after you bought this book, you were so excited.

I'm gonna have to check this one out on Alibris. Sounds like something I'd like. It might even have something on the Mummers parade, a Christmas tradition that is widely overlooked.

The little park up at Salem, WV, used to have a mummers parade, I don't know if they still have it or not, but i'd love to go to it. The only other place I know that has a mummers parade is Lewisburg, PA.


tipper said...

Sounds like a book I would love-I'm going to be on the look out for it!

Granny Sue said...

Matthew, there is a mummers play this weekend at Heritage Farm Museum in Huntington. Larry and I plan to attend because 2 friends are in it. Here's a link:

We went last year and it was excellent.

Matthew Burns said...

Will have to check it out. We have a Christmas Dinner on Friday night to attend, we're meeting the book agent Saturday at 10am, and Shirley has tickets to some Christmas symphony on Saturday night at 8pm, but maybe I can squeeze it in!!! After all, it's a mummers play! Maybe I can talk Shirley into it. The Farm Museum alone is worth the trip. I hear they have it decorated.

Thanks for the heads up.

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