Sycamore Shoals Park to highlight old-world holiday traditions

Published 8:11 am Friday, December 27, 2019

“Old Christmas” might not be a recognized holiday anymore, but the date holds significance in the historical community, as that was when Christmas used to take place, and Sycamore Shoals State Park is preparing to celebrate that and other old-time traditions as the holiday season wanes.

Museum curatorial assistant Chad Bogart from Sycamore Shoals State Park said the holiday stems from a calendar change that cut 11 days from the calendar. However, the change came from a Catholic pope, so the rest of the world, including the protestant England and its colonies, ignored the change until 1752. Hence, two Christmas dates: one on December 25, and the other, “Old Christmas” on January 6.

“During the early settlements, they were of many different cultures,” Bogart said of the holiday traditions. “You had English, Scottish, German, […]. They brought their cultures with them.”

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He said Christmas at Fort Watauga is meant to use the old holiday to showcase how these different cultures influenced the modern perception of the holiday. Different cabins will feature different countries and their cultures, such as the Irish and putting candles on the windowsill and the German origins of the Christmas tree.

“People can learn how the old world traditions combined,” Bogart said.

He said in many traditions in old America, Christmas did not start until the actual date, December 25, and did not end until January 6, hence the 12 Days of Christmas.

“I always enjoyed Christmas,” he said. “It brings us more in touch with our roots.”

He said he loves how this event, which comes after the rush of the holiday season, helps people relax and truly look to understand how their traditions came to be, as well as possibly take some traditions home for themselves to try.

“For example, the Scottish were Presbyterians,” Bogart said. “They did not really celebrate Christmas as a holiday.”

Instead, he said, their holiday traditions focused on the new year.

The event will run both Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 4 and 5, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Put aside the urge to be rushed, and come down and relax and learn,” he said. “You just might pick up something.”