Elvis Presley’s Birthday Celebration – Jan. 8-11, Memphis
Elvis Presley fans celebrate what would have been his 79th birthday, including enjoying a grand birthday cake. CONTACT: (800) 238-2000
Tennessee Sandhill Crane Viewing Festival – Jan. 18-19, Birchwood
Join in the celebration of the thousands of Sandhill Cranes that migrate through or spend the winter at the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee Rivers near Birchwood. Festival activities will be held at the Birchwood Elementary School, the Hiwassee Refuge, the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park and the Rhea County Welcome Center. CONTACT: tncranefestival.org
Martin Luther King Jr. Day – Jan. 20, Memphis
Programs at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis celebrate the birthday of Dr. King. CONTACT: (901) 521-9699
Winter Heritage Festival in the Smokies – Jan. 20 – Feb. 1, Townsend
Celebrate the history, natural beauty and cultural traditions of Townsend, Cades Cove and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at this annual festival. CONTACT: (800) 525-6834
Wilderness Wildlife Week – Jan. 25 – Feb. 1, Pigeon Forge
The ultimate Smoky Mountain experience is a series of activities sure to connect Pigeon Forge visitors with the great outdoors. Experts share their knowledge at seminars, lectures and hands-on workshops. CONTACT: (800) 251-9100
Annual Reelfoot Lake Eagle Festival – Jan. 31 – Feb. 1, Tiptonville (pictured)
Visitors can enjoy eagle tours, vendors, a bird of prey show, an art contest and photography tours at Reelfoot Lake. CONTACT: reelfoottourism.com
Sure, you could stop by your nearest department store this holiday season and pick out a festive artificial Christmas tree, pre-lit with twinkling lights you don’t even have to fool with putting on. But if you want to make a memory that will last a lifetime – and support local agriculture while you’re at it – pack the family in the car and head for one of Tennessee’s numerous Christmas tree farms.
“Natural Christmas trees are completely recyclable and are close to home, waiting to be transported only from the farm to your living room, leaving a carbon footprint of just about nothing,” says Rob Beets, Tennessee Department of Agriculture horticulture marketing specialist.
A Tennessee family Christmas tradition
And just as important as helping the environment and local farms is experiencing the holiday tradition with your family.
“It’s a great opportunity for kids to get out and do something fun with their parents,” says Jerry Martin, who opened a Montgomery County tree farm called Santa’s Place with his wife, Patti, seven years ago. “So many kids just stay indoors and play video games these days. We’ve tried to market our tree farm to families. We have photo opportunities that can be turned into Christmas cards and a children’s activity area with a balance beam, golf, a sand box and a corn box. We also have a fire pit where you can cook your own s’mores, and parents will sit around the pit with their kids and talk about how they used to roast s’mores as Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.”
A retired high school teacher, Martin is spending his golden years learning the ins and outs of growing Christmas trees on five acres and helping people get back to the roots of the holiday season.
“I tell people I put 40 years in education to learn to grow trees,” he jokes.
Martin has become an evergreen expert, giving his seasonal customers a variety from which to choose. “We offer White Pine and Scotch Pine, and we’re introducing Leyland Cypress,” he says. “We also bring in pre-cut Fraser Fir trees from North Carolina. The White Pine is a light tree that shapes nicely and grows well in this region, while the Scotch Pine has stronger branches for holding heavy ornaments.”
Santa’s Place provides saws for customers to cut down their own tree, or they can cut it for you. After being cut, trees are shaken to eliminate loose needles, netted and loaded onto your vehicle. The farm typically sells around 400 trees in a season and welcomes about 1,200 visitors.
After choosing and cutting their tree, visitors can stop by the concession stand for hot chocolate or a caramel apple and shop for handmade wreaths and swags, tabletop trees, potted trees, ornaments, antiques and decorations in the farm’s gift shop.
“The tabletop trees and potted trees can be replanted after Christmas and are great for centerpieces or for people who don’t want to fuss with a big tree,” Martin says.
Nativity scenes are placed around the farm, Martin says, to provide a catalyst for family conversations about the true meaning of Christmas.
Another popular attraction at Santa’s Place happened by accident.
“We have a big pile of gravel kids love to climb on, so we started sticking lollipops in a hay bale at the top. We call it Lollipop Mountain, and kids can climb up, get a lollipop and climb back down,” Martin says. “People call us every year and ask if we still have Lollipop Mountain.”
Christmas tree farms growing in popularity
Choosing and cutting Christmas trees is a longstanding holiday tradition all across the state. “Tennessee has Christmas tree farms from one end of the state to the other,” says Beets. “Local tree growers depend on loyal customers, so they make sure you can’t wait to come back year after year for a great holiday experience.”
More than 30 tree farms are members of the Tennessee Christmas Tree Growers Association. Arcy Acres Christmas Tree Farm & Nursery in Crossville grows 15 acres of White Pine, Norway, White Spruce, Blue Spruce and Canaan Fir trees and offers pre-cut Fraser, Canaan and Concolor Firs. A large selection of balled-and-burlapped trees gives customers the option of replanting their tree after the holidays. Arcy Acres also offers a gift shop with free coffee, hot chocolate and spiced apple juice, and Santa makes an appearance the second Saturday of December each year.
In the southern West Tennessee town of Selmer, Duncan Christmas Tree Farm & Gift Shop grows 11 acres of Carolina Sapphire, Virginia Pine, Leyland Cypress and Blue Ice trees and offers pre-cut Fraser Firs. Duncan Farm also provides popular Christmas Tree Tours, which include a hayride through the tree fields, a wreath-making demonstration, stories at the log cabin, a nature trail, playground and use of the farm’s pavilion and picnic tables. Tree-buyers can have their trees, live wreaths and garland flocked at Duncan Farm for added beauty. The flocking process involves spraying the branches to make them appear snow-covered.
Find a farm in your area at the Tennessee Christmas Tree Farm Directory. Beets advises calling ahead to confirm hours of operation and activities.
Back at Santa’s Place, Martin says the best part of running a Christmas tree farm is continuing an old-fashioned tradition and meeting new people.
“As a kid we always had real trees, so I like following the traditions of my parents,” he says. “We enjoy meeting people in such a positive situation – many have come back every year we’ve been open. I’m known as the Christmas tree man all around our community.”
And that’s perfectly fine with him.
“Just as long as they don’t call me Santa Claus,” he says with a laugh.
Barbara Rogers distinctly remembers the first time she visited the Art Guild at Fairfield Glade 11 years ago, on an “Open Studio” Monday. Sitting and painting with about 15 other artists on the second floor of a tiny building where the gatherings had been held since the early 1970s, she realized that she and her husband had chosen the perfect place to retire.
Each week after that, says Rogers, now Guild co-president, she and her new friends “got together and painted and talked and just had a good time.”
“Of course if you love something, you reach out and try to make it a better place than it already is,” she says. “We have grown to become one of the best art organizations in Tennessee.”
Now housed in a spacious facility built in 2007, the Guild’s 153-person membership spans all ages. It hosts more than 100 annual workshops and classes in everything from beading and soap-making to life drawing and thread painting. A fine art gallery and shop showcases watercolors, fabric art, pottery, jewelry and other high-quality pieces, and the campus also has a new wheelchair-accessible sculpture trail and an extensive library of instructional books and CDs.
The organization also strives to recruit budding artists under 18. For the past decade, volunteers have visited public schools in Cumberland County, introducing fourth-graders to the work of the Old Masters and contemporary artists. The Guild also offers summer art programs, monthly classes for home-school students, and college scholarships.
“We want to have them love art like we do,” Rogers says of the Guild’s young students. “Hopefully some of that group will come out with a better knowledge and interest in doing some type of artwork.”
Rogers, who teaches colored pencil drawing, has witnessed a number of “light bulb” moments over the years.
“A lot of the people who come to my classes have never had any lessons at all, don’t know anything about art,” she says. “And they always leave with a beautiful painting. I truly believe anyone can learn how to paint if they just give themselves a chance.”
Rogers and her colleagues hope their own passion for art is contagious. “We want to take artwork into the community,” she says, “so that everybody can enjoy it as much as we enjoy it, for them to view it and for us to teach it and get more people interested in doing it.”
If You Go …
Art Guild at Fairfield Glade
Address: 451 Lakeview Drive, Fairfield Glade, TN 38558
Check website for winter hours.
More Community Craft Centers
Fairfield Glade isn’t the only one of its kind. Many other communities outside of bigger cities have places for artists – from amateur to professional – to take classes, display their work and connect with other creatives. Here are a few around the state:
Appalachian Arts Craft Center, Norris
(Closed Sundays and Mondays January-February)
What began in 1970 in the back of an old grocery store as a way “to enrich the souls and pocketbooks of low-income people in Anderson County,” the Craft Center is now a free-standing educational facility with a variety of classes and a public gallery of handmade items ranging from blankets and rugs to photography and bowed psaltery (a musical instrument).
Appalachian Center for Craft, Smithville
A satellite campus of Tennessee Tech University, the Center offers BFA degrees and craft certification in clay, fibers, glass, metals and wood. The general public can also sign up for 50 workshops each year, stroll through three exhibition galleries, or shop for world-class art such as blown glass, jewelry, decorative ironwork, lamps and turned bowls.
The Renaissance Center, Dickson
In addition to art galleries, workshops and demonstrations, The Renaissance Center offers an eclectic mix of activities and entertainment, from ballroom dance lessons and Southern gospel concerts to RockSTAR camps and field trips for schools and home-school groups. The Artisan Market also features the creations of Tennessee authors, musicians and farmers.
Everybody seems to love cookies. Freestanding cookie businesses were unheard of until about 25 years ago.
Tennessee-based companies such as Christie Cookies, Whimsy Cookie Co. and other operations realized that a baker can zero in on one very special thing and bypass the standards of bread and wedding cakes.
The state of Tennessee allows ambitious bakers like myself to sell our wares from home or at farmers markets. I received my domestic kitchen certification through the state’s agricultural extension service, which involves taking a class, passing inspections, getting label approval and buying business licenses – all before baking a single cookie.
Cookies are small enough to grab with one hand, transport easily and stack neatly. They can be made of almost anything. And just in time for the holidays, they are the perfect gift to give or share.
The following recipes have been developed over years of hitting and missing. The traditional sweet favorites have a few new techniques and tips to make your homemade cookies stand up with the pros.
Hearty Breakfast Cookies are so packed with fruit, nuts and fiber that they leave power bars in their dust. Plus, who doesn’t want to start their morning with a nutrient-rich sweet?
Tennessee’s climate allows for most rosemary plants to survive the winter. When planted near a protective wall, they often grow to the size of a large shrub. What’s more, rosemary naturally contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Utilize this winter herb in our recipe for Orange and Rosemary Shortbread.
SEE ALSO: How to Chop Fresh Rosemary
Peppermint Crush Chocolate Chip Cookies, an interpretation of the classic Tollhouse cookie, can be a holiday hit or a great way to use up leftover candy canes. Bacon Sorghum and Cornmeal Sandies are a more savory option that gives a nod to our wonderful Tennessee bacon and sorghum.
SEE ALSO: What is Sorghum?
Finally, White Chocolate Cherry Chews combine the nutritional goodness of cherries with the sweetness of white chocolate chips. Dried tart cherries contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins, which provide anti-inflammatory benefits to promote a healthy heart and ease arthritis pain and muscle/joint soreness after exercise.
But don’t forget to save a few for Santa – after all, you want to end up on the nice list!
- Use insulated baking sheets so the bottoms of your cookies will not burn.
- Use a 1-ounce (2-tablespoon) ice cream scoop to ensure uniformity of cookie size.
- A metal cake spatula is ideal for removing warm cookies from the baking sheet.
- Place cookies in the center of the oven for the most even baking.
- Clean hands are better tools than the finest mixer. The only way to be sure dough is not too sticky is to touch it.
- In addition to butter, some of these recipes call for margarine. Hydrogenated fat (vegetable oil) enhances the texture in a way that butter cannot and creates a lighter cookie (not required for the denser consistency found in shortbread and sandies). I lean toward margarine over Crisco because I like the pre-measured ½-cup sticks.
- Decorate a plain brown lunch sack with a simple bow.
- Recycle old tins and boxes, or paint them to give them a new look.
- Hole-punch the corner of a business card with a personal greeting, and attach to a bag or box with a decorative ribbon.
- Make sure your cookies are airtight and well sealed for freshness.
Valerie Meadows of Adams, Tenn., has always loved the classic, red barn.
“We pass it all the time. We’ve even taken Christmas photos with the kids there,” she says. “We were driving by one day after a big storm, and I saw the rainbow and that blue sky. I made my husband pull over so I could take a photo. It was a chance happening, which usually make the best pictures.”
Meadows says the owners of the barn are family friends, and the quilts on the side are a big point of pride for them.
“Red barns are iconic on Tennessee farms, and the quilt patterns just really top it off for our state’s history,” Meadows says. “I tried to get the silos and corn in the photo, because I felt the rainbow symbolized the promise of a good crop.”
When the Montgomery County Farm Bureau member found out she won, Meadows says she wondered if it was real. “I’ve never really entered my photos in anything and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it!’” she says. “I was surprised and honored.”
Judges of this year’s contest thought Meadows’ photo was a great representation of Tennessee, and her picture took the top prize. The photos on the following pages received top honors or honorable mentions.
Meadows had tough competition this year, as more than 2,100 entries were submitted by Farm Bureau members. Think you’ve got what it takes to be the next photo contest winner? Look for an entry form in our spring issue, arriving in mailboxes in February.
SEE MORE: 2013 Photo Contest Winners
SEE MORE: 2013 Photo Contest Honorable Mentions
SEE MORE: 2013 Photo Contest Funny Photos
Good Wool Etc., out of Thompson’s Station, Tenn., makes beautiful handmade crafts and accessories using wool from their very own Jacob sheep. We’re giving away a set of handmade dryer balls throughout the month of December! Find out more about the dryer balls and their purpose here. Enter below for your chance to win. Good luck!
A 15-pound bundle of joy was delivered to David Pepper in spring of 2011. By December of the following year, “Baby” Jingle was almost as big as Blitzen, her mom, and all the other reindeer.
Naturally, at that point, they let her join in all of their reindeer games.
“Blitzen turned out to be pregnant when we got her,” says Pepper, recounting the birth that increased his herd of reindeer to seven. Pepper and his wife, Jill Swenson, take care of the reindeer in Middle Tennessee at their farm, Strickland Place. This 90-acre hay farm in White House has been in his family for 100 years, receiving recognition as a Tennessee Century Farm and by the National Register of Historic Places. He and his dad, Wesley Pepper, own the farm.
David Pepper knew he wanted to work on the farm after the 2008 shutdown of the Peterbilt Motor Co. plant in Madison where he had worked for 20 years. “I was looking for an agritourism idea that nobody else was doing,” he says.
What to his wondering eyes should appear, but a vision of a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer – or seven, as it so happened. Soon after, Prancer, Comet, Snowflake and Holly came to live with him, followed by Vixen and the pregnant Blitzen. This year marks Pepper’s fifth year raising the animals, all of which are female.
He and Swenson think of their herd more like pets than livestock. “They’re docile by nature. They each have their own quirks and personalities,” he says. “Some of them are more friendly; some are more standoffish.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture required Pepper to build an 8-foot fence for the animals and periodically inspect his place. Reindeer prices vary, from $800 to $6,000 apiece, based on the age and training.
In previous years, the couple offered scheduled tours of the reindeer at the farm. But this year, they plan to show the unusual animals only at off-farm sites. So far, the animals have appeared at private parties, festivals, malls and resorts such as Gaylord Opryland. This season, Santa’s Reindeer Tours will exclusively be at Cheekwood in Nashville.
“It was such a big hit last year on Saturdays, they decided to expand it this year and make it Saturdays and Sundays,” he says. He or Swenson will be on hand to answer the public’s reindeer questions.
SEE ALSO: December 2013 Events in Tennessee
A favorite repeated inquiry always makes him chuckle. “Over the years, we’ve had people ask, ‘Well, what are they really?’ ” he says. “I’ll say, ‘They’re reindeer!’ But they don’t believe that reindeer really exist.” He concedes the creatures are mainly recognized as characters from ’Twas the Night Before Christmas. And it’s true that they aren’t usually spotted as far south as Tennessee. Nonetheless, he’s quite sure reindeer are merely mystical, not mythical.
The arctic critters have adapted surprisingly well to the Volunteer State. In summer, “they pretty much hibernate in the barn,” Pepper explains. “I’ve got commercial fans that run 24 hours a day to help. Last year, we had some really extreme heat spikes of 109-degree days. So I bought an evaporative cooler.”
In summer, the animals also shed a lot of their hair. And since both male and female reindeer have antlers, Pepper’s group drops and re-grows their antlers every year as well. This comes after they shed their velvet, which covers the antlers. Losing their velvet and antlers doesn’t hurt the reindeer – rather, it’s more akin to losing a tooth.
Each reindeer weighs about 300 to 350 pounds and eats about five pounds a day of beet pulp, alfalfa hay and pelletized grain. Some of them love snacks, too. “We’ve yet to find a treat that Snowflake will eat, but Comet is a graham cracker hog!” Pepper says.
Despite his affection for them, he never forgets they are wild animals. “When you deal with the public, safety is an issue,” he says. So he puts up enclosures at large-crowd events. “We don’t want the animals to feel overwhelmed by people rushing them,” he explains.
Audiences usually love the fun facts Pepper and Swenson share. For example, he says, “When adult reindeer walk, they have a special tendon in their ankles that snaps like “snap, crackle, pop.” You can hear it pop when they walk. That’s so they can keep up with their herd if they can’t see in a snowstorm. But when the babies are born, their ankles don’t pop. That’s so that they don’t attract predators.”
That anatomical anecdote naturally lends itself to more Christmas lore. “You know the song, ‘Up on the rooftop, click, click, click?’” the reindeer owners tell their audience. “Well, it’s not necessarily their hooves but their ankles popping.”
To date, he has limited the herd to seven of Santa’s reindeer with no plans to fulfill that “eight tiny reindeer” passage from the famous poem. “I’ve got all the mouths that I want to feed,” Pepper says with a laugh. Besides, he doesn’t want to be greedy.
“Santa likes to spread them around so they can meet lots of kids everywhere,” he says.
If You Go …
See Santa’s reindeer on display at Cheekwood from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas (Nov. 30-Dec. 1, Dec. 7-8, Dec. 14-15, and Dec. 21-22). To learn more, visit cheekwood.org and go to the Public Programs section. For more information, check santasreindeertour.com.
Smith County Hometown Christmas – Dec. 1, Carthage
Guests can celebrate the season in Carthage. Head to the the Christmas open house event, go on horse drawn carriage rides, participate in the gingerbread house contest, see music performances, live nativity scenes and more. The Historic Smith County Courthouse is open as well as local businesses. The event begins at 1 p.m. CONTACT: (615) 735-2093
Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community Christmas Show – Dec. 2-8, Gatlinburg
This free arts-and-crafts show celebrates members of the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community along with artists from surrounding states. Enjoy pottery, photography, jewelry, candles, handmade candies and more, from fine art to traditional mountain crafts. CONTACT: gatlinburgcrafts.com
TSAA BlueCross Bowl – Dec. 5-7, Cookeville
The Tennessee Tech University campus will be buzzing with excitement as teams from across the state compete to be the best in their divisions on the impressive Tucker Stadium field. The games span three days with multiple games each day. Concession stands will be open with refreshments. CONTACT: cookevillechampions.com
Ruby Red Christmas – Dec. 6-28, Chattanooga
Celebrate the holidays 1,120 feet underground at Ruby Falls with festive music, a light show and more. CONTACT: (423) 821-2544
Maury Christmas Historic Home Tour – Dec. 6-7, Columbia
This year’s annual tour will feature a dozen historic sites in Maury County. Organized by the Maury County APTA, proceeds from the tour go toward the renovation of the Athenaeum Rectory in Columbia. CONTACT: (931) 381-4822
1850 Holiday Decorations and Treats Workshop – Dec. 7, Dover
Step back in time during this five-hour workshop as you learn how to make two different Victorian decorations and one tasty, traditional treat from the holiday season in the 1850’s. There is a $50 registration with a full deposit required for the event. CONTACT: (270) 924-2020
Christmas at Historic Rugby – Dec. 7, Rugby
Visit beautifully decorated historic homes in Rugby, sure to bring an old-fashioned Christmas holiday season to life. CONTACT: (888) 214-3400
Mansker’s Station Yulefest – Dec. 7, Goodlettsville
Ring in the holiday season 1780s style. For one night, the historic site opens its doors for a free night of old-tyme festivities. Guests can enjoy refreshments in the Visitor’s Center along with live music, then head outside to enjoy entertainment by candlelight at both Mansker’s Fort and the Bowen House. CONTACT: manskersstation.org
Oaklands Candlelight Tour of Homes – Dec. 7, Murfreesboro
This annual tour of homes ushers in the holiday season. The event will take place from 4-8 p.m. and features beautiful and historic private homes as well as the graceful Oaklands Mansion. Set in the historic district of Murfreesboro, stops along the tour will be festively adorned historical homes and churches, dressed in holly and evergreens. CONTACT: (615) 893-0022
Bethlehem Marketplace – Dec. 7-8, Murfreesboro
The Bethlehem Marketplace is a walk-through drama re-enacting how the village of Bethlehem might have appeared the morning after the birth of Jesus. Experience the Christmas story with live camels and other animals lending authenticity to the re-enactment. CONTACT: sebaptist.org
Christmas in Old Appalachia – Dec. 7-24, Norris
Experience the simple joys of an old-fashioned Christmas with music, cabins decorated in pioneer style, storytelling, crafts and more at the Museum of Appalachia. CONTACT: (865) 494-7680
“A Christmas Carol” – Dec. 13-15, 21-23, Hendersonville
Presented by the Actors Point Theatre Company, this critically acclaimed and non-traditional production has many surprises, and captures the true essence of the holiday season. Tickets available for dinner and performance or performance only. CONTACT: (615) 431-9620
7th Annual Toyota East vs. West Tennessee All-Star Classic – Dec. 14, Cookeville
All-star football players from across the state come together to battle in this best-of-the-best competition. CONTACT: taca.net
Civil War Comes to the Homeplace – Dec. 14, Dover
The land between the rivers has been occupied by federal troops and under martial law since the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson in February 1862. Learn how the family farms, especially women, faced many challenges to keep the family fed, clothed and farm operating. Experience the fears of the farm family and learn how they persevered though the hardships. Then, visit the Confederate encampment and learn how civilians coped with their new role as soldiers. CONTACT: lbl.org
Granville Country Christmas – Dec. 14, Granville
Celebrate a County Christmas in Granville. This year’s theme is a Victorian Christmas. Enjoy Christmas musicals, the Festival of Trees, an antique toy show, a parade, children events and rides and much more! CONTACT: granvilletn.com
3rd Annual TN River Holiday Tour of Homes – Dec. 14-15, Decaturville
Families volunteer their homes for a weekend viewing during the Christmas holidays in support of the Decatur County CASA, a non-profit organization benefitting abused and neglected children. Tickets may be purchased through the organization’s office. CONTACT: (731) 852-2632
Dickens of a Christmas – Dec. 14-15, Franklin (pictured)
A Victorian-themed Christmas with more than 200 costumed characters reenacting the work of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” CONTACT: (615) 591-8500
Murfreesboro Symphony Orchestra – Dec. 19, Murfreesboro
Get in the Christmas spirit by attending the Murfreesboro Symphony Orchestra’s annual Christmas concert, Sounds of Christmas. The Orchestra will be joined by the MSO Chorus for a stunning production of traditional fanfare that surrounds our most beloved season! CONTACT: murfreesborosymphony.com
Gatlinburg’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks Show & Ball Drop – Dec. 31, Gatlinburg
Deemed the “Best New Year’s Eve Show in the South,” the Space Needle area will come alive at the stroke of midnight with a fabulous fireworks show for the 26th year. CONTACT: gatlinburg.com
Tennessee Aquarium’s New Year’s Family Sleep in the Deep – Dec. 31 – Jan. 1, Chattanooga
Explore the aquarium at night with tours, special activities, pizza, a midnight toast and continental breakfast. CONTACT: (423) 267-3474
Want great, local, artisan products delivered right to your doorstep? Batch Nashville is doing just that. Enter throughout the month of December for your chance to win a three-month subscription to Batch Nashville, and learn about some of Tennessee’s wonderful products! Tell us what your favorite local product is in the comments below. Good luck!
Pajamas on … check!
Pajamas inside out and backwards … check!
Spoon under every pillow … check!
Ice cubes flushed down the toilet … check!
As our restless children crawl into bed, every step has been taken to ensure the nighttime arrival of Old Man Winter’s most coveted gift: the first snow.
Like so many other things we do around here, the first snow experience is packed tight with tradition. When the glow of a snow-covered lawn shines through the windows and the uncertainty of sleepy eyes has been rubbed away, three voices raise in a chorus of, “It’s snowing, it’s snowing!” Then six feet stampede down the stairs followed by my half-awake, halfhearted warning: “Don’t forget to put on your shoes and coats before you go outside!”
The first order of business is to officially declare it Marshmallow Day. This holiday, created by our middle child a few years ago, is always celebrated on the day of the first snow. (We have found that when our family does something twice, it suddenly becomes a “tradition” – a practice that I began to question last year, as I stood in line to buy marshmallows with all of the milk and bread shoppers on the night before a suspected snowfall.)
But, truth be told, I love Marshmallow Day. On this special occasion, we honor that fluffy, white, cylindrical goodness through a variety of marshmallow-themed activities. We drink hot chocolate from mugs overflowing with marshmallows. We make marshmallow goodies (like Rice Krispies treats or s’mores). We paint with marshmallows. We write poems about marshmallows. We even have an occasional marshmallow “snowball” fight. It’s truly quite a scene.
Next, we head outside to collect a big bowl of untouched snow for a batch of my husband’s famous snow cream. For those of you who have never experienced the sheer delight that is snow cream, put it on your to-do list this season. Snow cream – simply ice cream made with real snow – has many variations of the recipe, but ours calls for 8 cups of snow, a can of sweetened condensed milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Use less milk, or add more snow – it’s up to you. You can even add another flavor, such as almond, lemon or peppermint. The possibilities are endless, but the result is always the same: a delicious winter treat and a kitchen full of happy kids. After all, you can’t help but smile when you’re eating snow!
Another first snow day activity at our house is the traditional trampoline snow jumping. There is just something about a thick layer of freshly fallen snow on the top of a trampoline that entices our children like moths to a flame. Coordinating this event can be tricky, because perfect timing is of the essence and certain rules apply. All three kids must have equal opportunity to bounce in the smooth blanket of snow. No one is allowed a head start to get outside, and no one can start jumping until everyone is in position. Crazy as it may sound, this is one of the most highly anticipated moments for our family on a snow day.
Of course, a snow day wouldn’t be complete without a snowman, and we love to create our own version of Frosty right on the edge of our front lawn. Our snowmen are shorter and less robust than the northern variety, and we tend to divert from the typical carrot, coal and button facial features. We have had a Harry “Snow” Potter, a Bat(snow)man, a snow dog, a snowman in disguise (with those goofy Groucho Marx glasses) and a Wonder (Snow) Woman. You never know what, or who, will be posing for you as you drive by our house on a snow day.
The first snow of winter in our great state of Tennessee, and often the only snow of winter, is a day full of excitement and a rare opportunity to revel in one of winter’s special gifts. No matter what you do, enjoy every moment and make it a day to remember. It’s no surprise that a snow surprise is the best surprise of the year.
About the Author
Lori Boyd is a freelance writer and works part time as a registered nurse. She lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with her husband and their three children. They will spend many nights in backwards and inside-out pajamas eagerly awaiting the first snow of the season!