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Blockhouse displays Old World traditions

December 30th, 2013 10:05 am by Staff Report

Blockhouse displays Old World traditions

Contributed photo.

Now that Christmas is over, you can celebrate Old Christmas — or the Day of Epiphany, based on Old World traditions — from 5 to 7 p.m., Jan. 4, at the Wilderness Road Blockhouse at Natural Tunnel State Park in Duffield, Va.

John Anderson built a fortified blockhouse in 1775 to protect his family and European settlers from Indian attacks. Because Orthodox Christians in central and eastern Europe and other parts of the world celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6 — 12 days after Dec. 25 — the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Association will celebrate Old Christmas.

The free celebration will be held at the blockhouse, a representation of John Anderson’s fortified home.

Modern celebrations of the Christmas holiday were late in making their way to those living in the Appalachian Mountains. Many ancient observances from the old country were still practiced in these mountains as late as World War I. The first settlers in the Appalachian Mountains were of Scots-Irish and English descent, and they believed that anyone who stayed awake until almost midnight on old Christmas Eve would hear cattle or sheep praying in their barns and fields.

The Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Association will observe these traditions and customs, which were practiced and combined with new traditions, with stories and music of the period, along with traditional food and drinks, including stack cakes and hot cider.

Anderson built his home near the North Fork of the Holston River in 1775 next to what became the most traveled route to the west for the next 30 years. Some 300,000 pioneers passed that way, and many had maps listing the Blockhouse as a landmark and stopping place. Anderson lived in his home at the edge of the Wilderness Trail with his family until his death in 1817.

Scots-Irish Presbyterians regarded the designation of Dec. 25 for marking the holy day of Christ’s birth as a work of the Roman Catholic Church, an entity with which they strongly differed. They continued to commemorate Christmas on Jan. 6.

Participants should dress for the weather. For more information, call (276) 940-1643.

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