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.