Second Christmas points to true Christmas at Sycamore Shoals State Park

Published 8:21 am Friday, January 4, 2019

It is now 2019. The holidays are coming to a close, but are they really? It turns out, there is not just one Christmas to celebrate. There are actually two.

Sycamore Shoals State Park is holding tours of the old Fort Watauga this weekend, showcasing the historical traditions of Old Christmas.

Museum Curatorial Assistant Chad Bogart said each of the fort buildings will feature different cultures and how they would celebrate Christmas.

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“They will show how all these different traditions combined over the years to what we know now,” Bogart said.

For example, one of the buildings will showcase the German origins of the Christmas tree, while another will display candles on the windowsills like Italian traditions.

Bogart said the tradition of “Old Christmas” came from discrepancies between calendars.

Up until 1582, he said people used a calendar system created by Roman emperor Julius Caesar almost 2,000 years prior, but like other calendar systems, it was not perfect, meaning over time, the dates and equinoxes began to fall out of sync with the planet’s seasons.

“Pope Gregory got scientists and astronomers together to create a new calendar,” Bogart said. “They removed 12 days and created the leap year system to keep everything on track.”

He said the loss of those 12 days sparked riots in some places, to the point where many countries, including the 13 colonies, did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until the 1750s. Because of this, the 12 Days of Christmas tradition was born, as people often celebrated two Christmases, one on December 25 and one on January 5.

Bogart said the tours are a great opportunity to take a look at old traditions that have long since faded.

“There is an emphasis today on gift-giving during Christmas, and then the holiday is immediately over,” he said. “Christmas is not over. This is a time to reflect on the true meaning of the holiday.”

Bogart said the weekend is also a good time to visit the park and learn about what it has to offer.

“We get to educate people about their history,” Bogart said. “Some of these old traditions might become some people’s new traditions.”

The Old Christmas Tours will take place Saturday, Jan. 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 6, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.