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December 16, 2022 2 minute READ

Christmas in the Mountains

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As you can imagine, doing your holiday shopping in the early 1900s in Valle Crucis or really any mountain town was a little different than today. While you could place mail orders, they didn’t arrive in a couple of days, and you couldn’t just hop in a car and head to the grocery store for a broad collection of foods to prepare the feast. Christmas in the Appalachian Mountains was more centered on family and the simple gifts of friends, food, and long-held traditions.

We leafed through wallpaper books filled with packing lists and receipts for the Mast Store from years between 1905 and 1920 to see what was filling the shelves. Of course, we found orders for horseshoes, castor oil, and pencil tablets, but we also found orders filled with raisins, figs, baker’s chocolate, coconut, granulated sugar, oranges, and chocolate candy and mints. These were all important because if your neighbors came by “serenadin’,” which is a little like caroling with a little bit of mischief mixed in, you had to invite them in for a treat.

Wrigley Gum Invoice from 1905A common gift for children to find in their stockings on Christmas morning was a few pieces of candy, some nuts, and an orange. We can pick up these treats anytime, but for a kid in the mountains, it was like winning the lottery. Sometimes, after the Christmas pageant at church, each child would have a “poke” to take home. The brown paper bag was filled with an apple, an orange, some candy, and perhaps a small trinket. 

Calendar Plate from early 1900sA few interesting items included Fascinators (small ladies' hats made of silk, lace, or netting) ordered from E.W. King in December 1902, aviation caps in December 1911, Wrigley Chewing Gum with 100 calendars from December 1905, coconut bonbons, P-nut Butter Dandies, and Rainbow Cream Fudge from November 6, 1915, and 144 calendar plates with the inscription Compliments of W.W. Mast, wishes you a Merry Christmas and sells everything. Valle Crucis, NC from December 1915.

While the gifts under the tree and in stockings may have changed a bit over the last 100-plus years, visiting with family and friends over the holidays remains a long-standing tradition.

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