Exchange Place Living History Farm will celebrate the holidays and the winter season with Christmas in the Country on Saturday, December 2, from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. Admission is free to everyone for this final public event of the year at the historic site, which is proudly listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is located at 4812 Orebank Road in Kingsport.
Christmas in the Country will feature fresh greenery and trees, handcrafted wreaths and roping, and other holiday decorations. More than two dozen area and regional vendors, displaying unique folk arts and crafts, will be on display on both sides of Orebank Road. This will include a variety of hand-crafted items such as hooked rugs, baskets, pottery, quilts, greeting cards and jewelry. Your taste buds will be tempted with a variety of baked goods, hot sauces and goat cheese, and you can pamper yourself with unique handmade soaps and an assortment of herbal products.
Visitors to the 1850’s farm will see the simpler wintertime activities from our region, including a look at how our ancestors would have prepared for the holidays. Over in the blacksmith shop, for instance, the skills that were needed to make hardware and tools for the farm, fix wagon wheels and, of course, make shoes for the horses, will be demonstrated throughout the day by acclaimed local blacksmith Catherine Shook. In the log kitchen, the Eden’s Ridge Hearth Cookery Society will be preparing dishes that the wealthy Gaines and Preston families might have enjoyed during the holidays, like roast pork, salsify fritters, and cinnamon waffles.
In the nearby Cook’s Cabin, our Junior Apprentices will be demonstrating the Christmas-time food traditions of slaves, tenants, and Appalachian mountaineers, while also giving the public the opportunity to help decorate an old-fashioned Christmas tree and the yule log that will be burned at the close of the event. The Junior Apprentices, in fact, will be quite visible throughout the farmstead, helping with the food preparation, performing a variety of chores, and selling their own handmade crafts and decorations in the Schoolhouse, which should feature tulip poplar bark baskets, tin cookie cutters, paper ornaments, games, and toys. And hands-on activities for children will be found all around the grounds, including the always-popular making of candles.
The traditional Yule Log Ceremony, beginning around 4:15 pm, concludes the day and is highlighted with the singing of carols around the bonfire and a cauldron of wassail. The burning of the Yule Log can be traced back to the Vikings, who were honoring their gods and requesting good luck for the coming year. Later part of the harvest festival in Germany and Scandinavia, it moved to England with the Normans, and eventually migrated to the New World with the Pilgrims. In the 1850s, the Preston family would have celebrated Christmas in a very plain, non-commercial way, and a Yule Log was probably not a part of their holiday, but we have traditionally added it to Christmas in the Country as a symbol of peace and good will for our wonderful community.
The Yule Log was often decorated with evergreens and sometimes sprinkled with grain or cider before it was finally lit, and after it died down (anywhere from twelve hours to twelve days), its ashes were scattered over the fields to bring fertility, or cast into wells to purify and sweeten the water. We encourage everyone present to bring their own sprig to cast onto the fire, and to also wear fine, colorful headgear to the event.
For more information, you may call Exchange Place at 423-288-6071, visit our website at www.exchangeplace.info, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Exchange Place is a living history farm whose mission is to preserve and interpret the heritage of mid-nineteenth century farm life in Northeast Tennessee. Exchange Place is a non-profit organization maintained and operated by volunteers and is supported by donations, fundraisers, memberships and grants.