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Letter to the Editor: Christmas

Christmas by any other name upsets folks these days, of course there isn’t much that doesn’t make some bristle and claw up. Some of those expressive reactions can go right through a person. Have we lost our sense of humor from attending all those “Lightnin’ Bug Revivals”?

Back in the day before folks lost their sense of humor, becoming so easily riled, this holiday was referred to in many different ways, according to Ozark folklore: “Yule”, “Winter Solstice”, “Saturnalia” and the “Twelfth Night”, “New Christmas”, “Old Christmas” and “Green Christmas” were some of this occasion’s aliases.

During pioneer times these happy holidays were celebrated twelve days later than today’s tradition. The old timers would say that the elderberry sprouts on Christmas Eve, even if the ground’s frozen and the green shoots could be seen under the snow.

On the eve before Yule, the cattle were said to kneel down and bellow at midnight and they could not only conduct a conversation, they’d pray. Some claimed this resulted in a charm being put on the wells, turning the water into wine at midnight on January fifth.

On the morning of “Old Christmas” there would be two daybreaks instead of one. When born on this day boys were said to be lucky with raising cattle and would be able to talk to them. Skepticism was prevalent in the Ozarks with one farmer saying “But I just drawed a idy right thar that they warn’t nothin’ to it, nohow.” (Ozark Magic and Folklore)

Back in those days everybody tracked the phases of the moon but felt it was bad luck to hang a new calendar before the sun rose on New Year’s. Many thought what someone did on New Years indicated what they would be doing that year. Some old timers would hang onto their jug of whiskey until midnight before taking a drink, for that reason. 

Ozark Folk Speech reveals remnants of Elizabethan dialect and has been correctified by those that becoming fitified over what they believe is improper English. It is a hand-me-down cultural remnant of a very colorful past. For those seeking to rightify the colorful phrases, please stop and record them instead because it is disappearing and that memorable period of the past would be hurtified.

So ever-when you come across this charming folk speech, realize what a gift it is to be able to experience something that won’t be around long. If given a voice folk speech might say:

Me thinks I’m passed the wit o man, bein’ too far an’ snakey fer a fritter minded furriner to believe in the likes of me.

Dawn Allen,


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