Christmas Eve in Appalachia

Christmas 1974On Christmas Eve 1974 I’d just turned three and was beginning to understand that Christmas Eve meant certain things:

  • Our stockings would be hung over the chimney. My older brother had a Santa stocking, while mine featured a snow man, and I don’t think my two-month-old baby brother had one yet, but it would have Rudolph on it one day.
  • We’d put out sugar cookies Mom insanely let us help decorate for Santa Claus.
  • Dad would douse the fire and check the chimney to make sure it was all clear for Santa. You can see in the photo I’m a wee bit worried about this procedure.
  • We’d often go to church where folks would sing, put on skits, and hand out candy. This might have been sooner than Christmas Eve, but it’s all mushed together for me!
  • I’d lie in bed listening intently for the sound of reindeer hooves on the roof knowing morning would take FOREVER to arrive and that if I even considered stepping one toe out of bed Santa might opt to bypass us.

Of course, that was just us and that’s just my own, sometimes sketchy, childhood memory. Here are a handful of Appalachian superstitions for Christmas Eve:

  • At midnight, animals kneel as they did beside Jesus’ manger. They can also talk, but it’s bad luck to catch them at it.
  • Water turns to wine at midnight. Again, it’s bad luck to taste it. (I think I see a pattern, here.)
  • You can scare off evil spirits on Christmas Eve with a crowing rooster OR you can shoot off guns and fireworks.
  • Late on Christmas Eve, the angels are so busy celebrating Christ’s birth that you have a good chance of sneaking into heaven unnoticed.
  • And my favorite–if a single girl visits the hog pen on Christmas Eve and hears an old hog grunt, it means she’ll marry an old man. If a shoat grunts first, her husband will be young and handsome.

Regardless of how you choose to celebrate Christmas Eve, I hope your day is filled with love and joy. Merry Christmas!


Published by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Author, wife, child of God.

4 thoughts on “Christmas Eve in Appalachia

  1. you all would beg to visit the barn (or hog pen or chicken coop) to hear the animals talk at midnight and would speculate about what they would say. The time that would stretch the longest for me was the time from when I put you to bed and the time I was sure you were asleep before we could do the Santa delivery! We never got caught (that I know about anyway…)

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