Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Appalachian Traditions: Christmas Plays and Treat Bags

Very few things say "It's Christmas" to me like going to a church Christmas play and getting a treat bag. My church had our play this past Sunday evening and everyone was gifted a treat bag as they left. This has been a part of Christmas my entire life and there are still many churches who practice this tradition throughout Appalachia.

I believe this started as a way to ensure that the children throughout the communities would at least get one treat during the Christmas season. For a lot of children who grew up in the mountains, this may have been the only gift that they could expect. While the bags were initially intended for the children, they are now given to folks of all ages. I'm sure this still stirs up some sweet memories for all generations.

What could you find in a Christmas treat bag? There almost always was an apple, orange, candy cane, a pack of chewing gum, and a few chocolates. Some things never change and why would we want them to? 

Do you remember getting Christmas treat bags at church? Do the churches in your area still practice this tradition? What kinds of things did you find in your bags? I would love to hear from you...let me know in the comments!

47 comments:

  1. Our little church still does treat bags...we get them the Sunday before Christmas. There are some that meet and put together the bags the week before, and we all have so much fun!

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  2. My church still does this! We take any leftover ind give them to the residents at the nursing home. One of my favorite traditions!!

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  3. When I was a child in New England we got boxes that were shappe like a church decorated for Christmas and full of candy!

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    1. Yes, we still do. We got ours today. We did our little Christmas Play, then everyone got a little brown treat bag with an orange, apple, candy bar in it. I'm 30 and was born and raised in southeast ky and this has always been a tradition and memory for me and I love it and I hope it always continues!

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  4. My grade school in the early 1960s used to give each child a treat bag and an orange. We did not get much chocolate candy or oranges so it is a special memory. The small box was decorated with Christmas themes and had a string handle.

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  5. This is a very fond memory for my wife and I too. I was called last year to pastor the small Central Valley California church we have attended for the past 15 years. Every year they gave out a small trinket, like an ink pen with a scripture verse, to members at Christmas. As the new pastor, my wife and I are bringing our Appalachian tradition to this church and today will be giving out the goodie bags we so love. Yup, an apple, orange, some nuts, chocolates, and a candy cane. Thanks for sharing your memory with us.

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    1. That makes my heart happy! God bless you & your ministry!

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  6. Our church still does this. I got the privilege of helping to pack the bags this year: an apple, an orange, candy cane and various other candy.

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  7. Yes in north Georgia. Apple orange, candy cane, candy bar every year:)

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  8. My mother, who grew up in the 40’s said that the circuit preacher, would come around every Christmas and give the children an orange and a peppermint stick. That was all that they got for Christmas and it was very special to them.

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  9. Our church in Milton FL still does it as well. We received ours today. I remember getting them when I was younger.

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  10. We usually got an orange, a banana, vanilla creme drops, a candy cane and orange slice gum candy or gum drops.

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  11. When I was a child, our stockings at home always had an apple, an orange, a tangerine, a peppermint, and about 5 nuts in the shells. We thought it was wonderful!

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  12. We had our play and treat bags this morning! In a world of technology and fast pace, it is good to slow down and see even the adults excited to see what flavor of gum, candy bar, is waiting inside that brown paper bag. It warms my heart to see visitors feel a little of the love on this special day. I was a bit sad this morning as I realized it was the first time in 21 years that my son missed this service because of a new job, I could tell he was sad too. But guess what is waiting for him when he gets home? They wouldn’t let us leave without bringing one home for him. May you all feel the love and joy of Christmas! God bless!

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  13. Brought back beautiful memories of growing up. This was the only present that us kids received at Christmas, sweet memories.

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  14. Our little church always has and still does. We have exactly the the same items you listed. We are located in Murphy, NC.

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  15. This brings back precious memories of our small country church each Christmas.

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  16. I enjoyed the same wonderful event as a child in Kingsport, Tn. Preparing for the Christmas play and feeling what it must have been like to be Mary or an angel, surround by family and community. A sweet loving amount of hugs and as we went towards the rear doors the excitement of that crisp white bag of goodies. To say times were hard would be no exaggeration. The roof was leaking so bad I couldn’t catch it all. I was 10 yrs old and my clothes in my closet were saturated. The ceiling in the kitchen sagged so much it fell in on the kitchen table. You could see the earthen basement thru the spaces between the wooden floor pieces that my mom had painted. She always kept us clean and fed during those years. So there was Christmas, our heartfelt songs in church, and our treat bags waiting at the sanctuary door going out. My favorite surprise was the year I got teaberry gum along with my orange and a real candy bar, store bought!

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  17. My husband and I were talking about these today. My church in Wise County, VA, gave all the items you listed above along with a walnut and a Brazil nut. My husband's childhood church did, too. We attend a small church in Roanoke, VA now. Our church had a basket set up at the back of church today with candy for the kids. I loved getting my brown lunch bag on the Sunday before Christmas when I was a child. Wonderful memories

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  18. We always got a brown bag full of hard candy. Most years we got 2 bags, one on the last day of a school and the other at the church play. Knott County KY.

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  19. Mullens, WV! My granny got hers at church this morning :) it had an apple, an orange, a candy cane, a pack of gum, and chocolate just like you said!

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  20. Wonderful! We send extras home with some of our people who need them for others! God Bless

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  21. Yes! This was my Christmas childhood in WV.

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  22. In NW NC, we still do this. My church hands out treat bags w/orange, candy bar, & pack of gum. The church I grew up in hands out the same, but also includes old fashioned candies like chocolate creme drops & coconut candy & orange slices. Love this Christmas tradition! ❤️

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  23. Southern KY, still do it too

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  24. Our men's group used to do this for the whole church. When they stopped, my husband and I decided to continue the tradition for the kids. This year they got an apple, an orange, candy canes, and other assorted candy in little treat bags tied with ribbon. We'd love to do it for the entire congregation but it would be very expensive.

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  25. Our 200+ year old Appalachian congregation in the Glades of Gatlinburg TN still does this...exactly the same contents.

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  26. Thanks so much for sharing. It was very interesting. Susan Campbell

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  27. This was always the custom at my husband’s Lutheran church in Central Wisconsin-Christmas pageant and then a Christmas bag for the children

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  28. Our church in Ohio still has Treat Sunday. I still look forward to it. My mother is from southeastern Kentucky and fondly recalls the oranges and hard candy.

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  29. Our church in Ranger, WV still does this. We had our church play Dec. 15. Yesterday, we had our gift exchange and gave out treat bags. Ours had an apple, an orange, a bag of orange slice candy, a bag of chocolates, a box of chocolate covered cherries, and a box of candy canes. We always make more than what we need so our pastor and deacons deliver the extras to the elderly in our community.

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  30. Our church in Sylva NC still does this.

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  31. Such sweet memories. My church in Ashe County NC gave out these little bags of an orange, nuts, candy and that special cane cane. At the age of 79, I still relive this memory of Christmas.

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  32. Our church in Rockingham county NC still does a play and gives out treat bags after the service!!! We have apples, oranges, candy bars, gum, and raisins in our bags every year!!! <3

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  33. Our church in Rockingham county NC still does a play and gives out treat bags after the service!!! We have apples, oranges, candy bars, gum, and raisins in our bags every year!!! <3

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  34. My grandmother always gave us fruit and candy at Christmas, and mom said she always got the same when she was growing up. Just a couple of days ago, my son talked about how much he looked forward to getting the same in his stocking at both grandmothers each Christmas. Some things never change, because they are good things!

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  35. I opened my treat bag from church just yesterday. It immediately flooded me with so many memories and emotions..in an INSTANT it transported me back to a time in childhood, when my parents and my sister were still here, when my family was intact and filled with love and excitement. I was quite overwhelmed when I bit into a pink coconut candy and burst into tears. Hope this tradition never dies.

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  36. Yes! I grew up receiving these at my church and I believe they still give them out. I’ll have to ask my dad since I’ve moved away. Ours had almost verbatim what you have listed, but in the early years, they also contained nuts of some kind and the candy cane was often the soft stick kind that you could use as a straw in the orange. What a sweet memory. Thank you.

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  37. This is my favorite memory of Christmas time in our little country church in Giles County, Va. Everyone, young and old got a treat bag. Apple, orange, gum, candy bar and a peppermint candy cane. I was not home in time this year for the treat service so I made one to give to the gentleman that always passed them out when I visited his home on Christmas eve as he can no longer drive himself to church. Thank you for sharing a great memory!

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