Christmas In Historic Rugby

I lived in Tennessee for 23 years.  Though I was not a native of that state (having been born and raised in Maryland) I grew to love it. Tennessee became my home and it will always hold a special place in my heart. One of my favorite things to do was to visit Rugby, TN. during one of the first two weekends in December. Rugby was a good couple of hours from my home in Knoxville…but well worth the drive.  Unless one knows about Rugby it is sort of difficult to find. As you wind your way through the mountains of east Tennessee, you head towards the Cumberland Plateau.  I remember driving on a two lane road through a forest of trees, when suddenly it opens up and there you are in Rugby. Rugby is a town that was settled by European colonists in the 1880’s. Thomas Hughes was the founder and he had plans for Rugby to be a kind of Utopia.  You can read all about the history of the village, here. You can click on the history, pictures, the Christmas activities page…just look around.

This village is very interesting and beautifully decorated for Christmas, just as it was in the 1880’s.  One feels like they have been transported back in time to a Victorian village where ladies wore long dresses and carried hand muffs. The men had coats with tails, and stopped to wish you a Merry Christmas as they walked down the street. You might hear carolers in the distance, or stop by the lantern lit church to hear the Christmas story.  Maybe you want to visit with friends while you sip some hot wassil.

Rugby is not just a historical museum, like Williamsburg, VA. There are actually houses that real people live in. The houses have to look the part, so to speak.  But I think it would be quaint to live in such a place.  There are no grocery stores near by, or movie theatres, or Walmarts. I supposed the residents have to drive if they need the more modern conveniences. The decision to live in a town that prides itself in its history would have to be weighed against being isolated from the more modern conveniences I mentioned.  Still, to visit is a real treat for the senses.  So, if you are ever in east or middle Tennessee during the first couple of weekends in December, why not take a trip back in time? You might just find out that you like it there!

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Christmas Nostalgia

Last night I was looking up Woolsworth online.   I remembered that store from my childhood and the Santa house that always sat in front of the store during the month of December.  Isn’t it interesting how one remembers little things?  I found out that Woolsworth closed it’s doors forever in the United States in 1997.  It had a fascinating history. There is even a book written about Woolsworth, that I believe I’d like to read. It was the best five and dime store, long before Walmart ever thought about being a discount giant!

So anyway, I was thinking about Christmas and remembering things from my childhood. I surfed the internet and found a blog that this lady had written about her childhood in the 50’s. She talked about what Christmas used to be like before all the electronic gadgets and gizmos.  I really enjoyed her story telling.  It made me nostalgic thinking of my own childhood Christmas’. (not from the 50’s though!) My childhood Christmas memories took place in the 70’s and early 80’s.

Every Christmas Eve my Mom and Dad, and my sister and I would go to my paternal grandparents house. So would all the other  relatives from that side of the family. The downstairs was decorated (which my sister and I had decorated a few weeks before —like putting a big red nose on my grandfather’s deer head that was mounted on the wall) the food was laid out as far as the eye could see! After the kids ate we’d all sneak back upstairs to the living room with the big Christmas tree. We’d “oh and ah” over all the gifts…..because we always got to open our gifts from Mammaw and Pappaw on Christmas Eve night.  Before any gift opening went on we all went to the Christmas Eve service at church.  I remember how beautiful our little stone church looked when decorated for Christmas. The stained glass windows, the greenery and candles…..and it was quiet. There was a hush over the congregation on this very special night.  I remember singing Silent Night, and Joy To The World.  Then it was back to my grandparents for more eating….and opening of presents. Woo hoo!  I remember how exciting it was as a child–the anticipation was half the fun!

Christmas morning my sister and I woke up to gifts under the family tree. There are some “interesting” pictures of us on Christmas morning, with some serious “bed head” going on.  The kind that only young children can pull off!  Pictures in front of the tree….and boy did we have some doozies of live trees. One year our tree looked like a big evergreen bush instead of a tree. The truth is that with decorations and lots of tinsel (which my mom always said needed to be “placed” and not thrown on the tree–which was my idea of how to get it done) the tree looked pretty.

I remember my mom had several big Christmas albums (were they called 78’s?). I loved it when she’d get the albums out and put them on the stereo (which was in a huge wooden cabinet). Nat King Cole and Mahalia Jackson would sing songs of Christmas. I can still hear them even all these years later.

After our gift opening—we got dressed and headed to my mom’s relatives houses. We ate breakfast at one aunt and uncles, brunch at another, lunch somewhere else and then desserts at yet another. This gave us ample opportunity to eat and visit and look at everyone’s decorated trees and gifts they had received. It was a huge day-long extravaganza. I was blessed enough to have all my extended family living near by. I loved that as a child, but oh how much more I appreciate the opportunity I had,  now that I am an adult with my own children!

I remember my Mom’s sausage and cheese on rye breakfast treats,  my Aunt D’s seafood dinner, my Aunt B’s desserts…I could go on and on, but I’m making myself hungry.Looking back over my blog I see that we did a lot of eating during the holidays.  It’s true, but man was it good stuff!

Christmas memories. Good times.

Vintage Christmas

I just finished reading an interesting article on vintage wrapping paper. The lady writing the article is an artist. She started collecting the paper in the 1980’s–and found quite the treasure trove through her own family members. The paper from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s is especially interesting. The paper can be used for art projects or if someone is really special they might get a gift wrapped in the special paper.  The cheery, simple patterns are a preserved memory of yesteryear. I enjoy that. There is something about the simplicity of the patterns and pictures that appeals to me. I was born in 1968 so I wasn’t around in the 40’s, 50’s or most of the 60’s…but I still enjoy the movies, decorations, and spirit of the holidays from that time period. I suppose I just have an old soul.

Some of the same pictures on the paper, mirror actual decorations from that time period. I do remember as a child, the Shiny Brite glass ornaments my mom had for us to decorate the tree with. ( I don’t know for sure, but she probably bought them at Woolsworth.) Wow, if I knew then what I know now! Those glass ornaments are valuable now…for collectors, yes….but, much more valuable for the memories. My mom had some beautiful pink, icicle-like tree decorations that were her favorites. I wonder whatever happened to those? Also, I remember the little choir singers in red and white gowns. They were wax candles. (but mom never burned them….they were “for decoration only.”) We had a nativity scene that was always a treat to unwrap each year.  One year baby Jesus’ arm got broken, and I think a camel lost a leg. We just glued it back on. I suppose Mom could have gone out and bought a new nativity, but it wouldn’t have been as good as the old one. One that had been loved on.  Mom, if you are reading this…whatever happened to that nativity? Do you still have it? Just curious. Just remembering.

I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas…

Well, it snow flurried today. We are supposed to be getting some real snow on Monday. It sure is cold enough! The temps aren’t supposed to get above the 30’s all week! I say cold weather gives us a  perfect opportunity for hot chocolate and flavored mocha coffee. Hey, a girl has to have some vices….and mine happens to be chocolate. So there.  I’d love for it to snow….BUT before that happens I want the pantry to be stocked. I am all about preparedness. I want to look out the window at the snow. I might even play in the snow. I’ll definitely take pictures of the white stuff.  I just don’t want to have to traverse slippery roads in the snow. One car accident this year is enough. (it still makes me weepy to think about my Camry. R.I.P)

I thought for today’s blog post I would post some of my Christmas decorating pictures.  I love my house all the time…but especially at Christmas. It just looks so pretty.

Sentimental Christmas

The other day I was standing in the living room looking at our family Christmas tree. I’ve had this particular tree for several years. I think I bought it after Christmas in 2002. Pretty good deal for a nice 7 ft. tree. More than the tree, are all the ornaments on it.  I have a lot of ornaments. I mean a lot. Each one means something to me.  Now, I know there are people who buy a tree and decorate it with color coordinated lights and trim. The tree is an awesome sight to behold. That is NOT how I do our family tree. I have my dog ornament that my mom got for me when my pet, Buster, died in 2004. I have all the handmade ornaments that my son made for me while growing up. To me, nothing is better then all the pictures of  him when he was 3, 4, 5 years old, held together with string and hot glue. What about the moose one from our vacation to Wyoming? I love the decorations my young nieces made for me out of dough. Or the one’s I got at Cracker Barrel at the after Christmas sale? My Aunt D. bought me a ceramic Christmas tree and gave it to me the first Christmas I was out on my own, after graduating from college. I’ve had it on display during the holidays for 19 years!  Each ornament has a memory associated with it. That is a big reason why I enjoy putting up the Christmas tree each year. It gives me the opportunity to “relive” the memories behind each decoration.

When I remarried I bought even more ornaments for my “new” son and daughter. A hockey ornament (because he played hockey), a soccer ornament for her because she started playing soccer ,along with my son, who played soccer since he was 6. After getting remarried I got a his and her bear ornament for the tree. A couple of years ago I had all three kids help me string cranberries and popcorn to make garland for our tree. We had fun doing that (and also cheated and ate as we went).  Our tree is not worthy of Better Homes and Gardens….but that is fine by me, because our tree is mixed with memories, old and new, and strung together with love.

Christmas Swag

Do you have a chandelier hanging in your kitchen or dining room? I’m not talking cut crystal or anything like that…I mean just a regular simple chandelier. Well, we have one in our dining room and so I had thought what can I do to dress it up for Christmas without spending any money? For Christmas decorating purposes I had already decided that I was going to hang clear glass Christmas balls on ribbon and tie them to the arms of the chandelier–hanging at different heights for visual appeal. My oldest son had a good idea. He took some greenery and carefully began to weave it through the light, leaving some of the greenery hanging, along with the suspended clear glass balls. Wow. It looks really pretty…and was so simple! We already had the stuff so no money spent. Yea!

Another idea, and a fun craft activity….buy a pack of the clear, hollow plastic Christmas balls. (not much at the Dollar Store) Pop the top off (where the hook goes in the ball) and put a drop of craft paint in the ball. Put your thumb over the hole in the top and twist the ball back and forth so the drop of paint moves around. You can make some really cool patterns, you can use two different paints if you want, but be careful you don’t mix too much or it will look brown instead of showing your intended colors.  After the paint dries, pop the hook thingy back in the top and hang your decoration up!  Wa La! Now you have Art Deco decorations!