Celebrate ‘Old Christmas’ at Sycamore Shoals

Published 9:36 am Monday, January 2, 2017

Star File Photo/Abby Morris-Frye  Volunteer historic interpreters explain some of the Old World Christmas traditions to visitors at Sycamore Shoals State Park during last year's Old Christmas event at the park.

Star File Photo/Abby Morris-Frye
Volunteer historic interpreters explain some of the Old World Christmas traditions to visitors at Sycamore Shoals State Park during last year’s Old Christmas event at the park.

While the New Year is upon us, the Christmas celebrations are not over yet.
This coming weekend, Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park will host a special Old Christmas event featuring a variety of holiday traditions brought to the frontier from the Old World.
“When people think of Old Christmas they think ‘old time,’ but this is actually a separate holiday,” said Chad Bogart, historic interpreter at Sycamore Shoals.
In Colonial America, Christmas was celebrated as a 12-day holiday with many traditions and customs. These 12 days of feasting, and merrymaking ended on January 6th or “Twelfth Night” with a grand celebration.
The tradition of Old Christmas began when the Catholic church approved a change in the calendar, removing 12 days, according to Bogart.
“The Protestants got mad because the Pope did it and they wanted their 12 days back, so they just decided they would have a second Christmas,” Bogart said. “That’s where we get the 12 Days of Christmas from.”
On Saturday, Jan. 7, and Sunday, Jan. 8, members of the Washington County Militia will host the Old Christmas Celebration as part of their monthly muster at the fort.
Visitors to the park will step back in time as they step through the gates at Fort Watauga and get to enjoy some 18th century holiday joy.
Each cabin in the fort will be the setting of Christmas traditions as celebrated by the settlers of different cultures on the colonial frontier. Among the different cultures that will be represented are Irish, English, Dutch, German, and, new this year, Scandanavian.
“A family in our re-enactment group, the Hardy’s, have Scandanavian heritage and will be sharing those traditions,” Bogart said. “I’m anxious to see that one.”
Many of our modern Christmas customs are taken from centuries old practices such as English Christmas Guns, the Irish Holly Wreath, the German Tannenbaum, Scottish First Footing, and the Dutch Sinterklaas.
“Something we’re doing new this year is we’re going to have the Carter Mansion open for Christmas Tours,” Bogart said.
The Historic Carter Mansion is a satellite campus for Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park. Each year in December, the park holds special candlelight tours at the home for Christmas. Bogart said the Mansion is being opened during the Old Christmas event in response to a request from the public for more Christmas tours. Unlike the special event in December, the tours of the Mansion this coming weekend will take place during the day instead of by candlelight. Bogart said this will give visitors a better chance to view the home decorated for a Colonial Christmas.
“That’s the only thing we’re going to be charging for is the tours of the Mansion,” Bogart said. “The event down at the Park will be free.”
The cost for the tours is $5 (cash only) for ages 13 and up. Children age 12 and under are admitted free. Tours of the Carter Mansion will be offered on Saturday, Jan. 7, at 11 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.; on Sunday at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
The Old Christmas Celebration at Fort Watauga will take place on Saturday, Jan. 7, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., and on Sunday, Jan. 8, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park is located at 1651 W. Elk Avenue in Elizabethton, Tenn. The Carter Mansion is at 1031 Broad Street. For more

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