'A simpler time:' Rocky Mount celebrates 'A Candlelight Christmas'

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Nov 22, 2017 at 9:28 PM

PINEY FLATS — Most people today can’t remember a time when Christmas wasn’t associated with incessant advertising and fighting over the best deals on Black Friday.

Rocky Mount State Historic Site does.

On Dec.1, 2, 8 and 9, Rocky Mount will invite guests to “A Candlelight Christmas,” taking attendees back to “a simpler time,” when Christmas was celebrated in a much different way.

At the event, guests will travel back to 1791 to visit the Cobb family and then-Gov. William Blount, whose family stayed at the Cobb family home for a brief time during the late 18th century. During this time, the Cobb family home was the capital of what was once called the Southwest Territory.

With the Cobbs and the Blounts, guests will be encouraged to celebrate the holiday the way settlers in the Southwest Territory once did, according to Education Director Kristin Turner, who said the tour allows participants “a chance to take a step back and see things from a different perspective.”

“All the advertisements about how to get this and that sometimes makes you think it’d just be great if we could enjoy the holiday and each other’s company,” Turner said.

Though some of the old traditions throughout the tour are similar to today’s, like Christmas greeneries or the “kissing ball” — the traditional version of the mistletoe — others, like the “poor man’s punch,” are long gone. In this tradition, unmarried men would drink a punch containing a button, a coin and a ring. If a participant received the coin or ring in their cup, it was said to have been a sign that they would soon encounter fortune or be married.

Much like the lump of coal, nobody wanted to get the button, which meant no money and no wedding.

For those who’ve received “the button” over the past year, traditional carols and baked goods should lift their sprits before relaxing with family over a cup of hot chocolate or coffee. Much like how the Cobb family once celebrated Christmas, attendees are encouraged to experience the true meaning of the season in a time when the holidays were less hectic and more about fellowship and family.

“Christmas was all about being with your family and celebrating it in a religious way. It was a very popular time for people to get together, especially when it took weeks to get to a friend or family member’s house. You wouldn’t spend a few hours, you’d spend days with them,” Turner said.

Tours begin at 4:30 on each day. The tour lasts about an hour-and-a-half and costs $10 for adults and $8 for children ages 5 and up. Rocky Mount members will receive a $2 discount off admission.

Though reservations are encouraged, walk-in visitors are also welcome. For more information, call 423-538-7396 or 888-538-1791.

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