Christmas in the Smokies

The holidays bring about a delightful mix of seasonal cheer and a big dose of nostalgia that will warm the heart of even the grinchiest elf. There are the lights, the music, the shopping, and the exhilarating anticipation of Christmas Eve. Then December 25th rolls around, and children of all ages run gleefully to the tree with hopes of finding their Christmas wishes brought to life. But what if, in the building of all that merry anticipation, kids instead found themselves having to wait until January to celebrate?

That’s how it was for many children back in the early 19th century. A whole eleven extra days were added to the wait in many remote areas of the Great Smoky Mountains.

A Smoky Mountains Christmas was observed in January because – from the 16th to the 18th centuries – there was a swap over between the older Julian calendar to the more updated Gregorian calendar. In “ye days of olde,” folks struggled to keep track of their yearly schedules. Plus, there was the whole confusion of moon phases and daylight savings time, and things got really confusing. So in the 1800s, this left a lot of people in the Smokies still hanging onto old traditions and celebrating Christmas – according to the old Julian calendar – on January 6, which was known as “Old Christmas Day.”

In other odd Smoky Mountains Christmas traditions – or at least odd to our modern sensibilities – the whole family would stay up until midnight on Christmas Eve (January 5) and head out to the barn to watch the animals “pray.” As the old stories go, round about midnight, the animals would break into a worshipful chorus of bellows, brays, and whinnies to celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

While these traditions have faded into the past (though, there may be a few voices in choir lofts today who sound more like braying than singing), a Smoky Mountains Christmas in the 21st century is filled with plenty of wonderful traditions that our ancestors may think strange if they could see us now.

Still, there’s something uniquely magical about a Smoky Mountains Christmas, isn’t there? Picture it now – waking up on Christmas morning, a roaring fire crackling away in the stone fireplace, stockings filled with presents and treats. The lights on the tree sparkle in the early morning light, and the house is peaceful and warm inside while a flurry of flakes blankets the ground outside in a layer of white. This picturesque scene is only enhanced by the festive activities that await in the nearby towns in the Western North Carolina area of the Smokies. Here are a few of our favorite ways to celebrate Christmas in the Smoky Mountains at the Meadowlark Motel.

Do a Little Smoky Mountains Christmas Shopping

Smoky Mountains Christmas

Ah, that time-honored tradition of Christmas shopping. It takes on an entirely new allure when you’re in the Smokies. From locally owned antique stores to grand shopping excursions, you can find unique gifts for the whole family everywhere you look.

Visit Cabbage Rose, a premier Christmas shopping destination in Maggie Valley, where you can find bits and baubles for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list. Biltmore Village charms with its Dickensian English village aesthetic that will get you into the holiday spirit. Or for a more traditional shopping experience, head to Asheville Outlets and hit all the trendiest stores.

Enjoy the Winter Weather with Christmas in the Smokies

Christmas in the Smokies

With a Smoky Mountains Christmas, you’re almost always guaranteed an amazing winter wonderland. Slip on your mittens and pull the scarf tight around your neck as you venture out into the crisp mountain air. As a hush falls over the forest, wander out among the trees for a peaceful holiday hike or go wild and gather the family together for a playful snowball fight. When your fingers get frosty, head inside to warm up by the fire and wrap your hands around a cup of hot cocoa. Then get a jump start on the gift wrapping while you listen to Christmas tunes drifting softly from the speakers.

Have a Snowy Adventure

When the snow begins to fall, it’s time to liven up your Smoky Mountains Christmas. Head outside for some exciting outdoor winter activities. Whether it’s a snowy hike, tubing down the slopes, or strapping on a snowboard or skis, the great outdoors are always calling, even when – or maybe especially when – you’re celebrating Christmas in the Smokies. Try the Cataloochee Ski Area near Maggie Valley for some amazing skiing. Or strike out into the wilderness on a hike in search of frozen streams and glittering waterfalls. And if the roads are clear, there’s nothing quite like a rejuvenating motorcycle ride set to a backdrop of snow capped peaks.

Enjoy Winter Attractions

You can find exciting attractions in the Smoky Mountains any time of year, but something special happens at Christmas when the streets are decked with festive décor and musicians and storytellers take their holiday cheer and “go tell it on the mountain.” All your favorite mountain attractions are taken to the next level with seasonal swag, and you can even find a couple of special events that only happen at this most wonderful time of the year.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosts an annual Festival of Christmas Past and Holiday Homecoming, where traditional music, stories, and crafts bring history to life. And the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad hosts a favorite holiday tradition for kids of all ages when everyone climbs aboard The Polar Express. It’s a one-of-a-kind Smoky Mountains Christmas excursion that will make you believe in magic, no matter how jaded you think you are.

A Smoky Mountain Cabin

Christmas in the Smokies

No Smoky Mountains Christmas would be complete without a stay in an iconic mountain cabin. Frosted window panes, crackling fires, and spectacular mountain views all come together to provide the perfect home base for your Christmas holiday. And Meadowlark Motel has just the spot for you.

Choose from three spacious cottages or a two-bedroom cabin, where you’ll find all the Christmas comforts you need with additional amenities like relaxing decks that stretch out over the serene Jonathan Creek. Relax to the soothing sound of the rushing water, sip your morning coffee, and take in the views all while dreams of sugarplums dance in your head.