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Montgomery Store Gold Hill to host ‘Breaking Up Christmas’

GOLD HILL — For many families across Southern Appalachia the twelve days of Christmas end on Old Christmas (Jan. 6). The tradition of “Breaking Up Christmas” is a week-long celebration with gatherings of friends and families who meet in each other’s homes for all-night picking and jamming. Folks of all ages come together to enjoy the fellowship and share the music while winding down the holiday season.

The tradition began with celebrations rooted in Ireland, Scotland and all over the old world. In these original celebrations, a group of men would make surprise visits to the various homes, performing plays and festive music for small donations of money and gifts.

The tradition continues today, but just for the fun of sharing the music. Musicians from professionals right on down to novice players enjoy passing on the old time music tunes, ensuring that both will be carried on for generations to come.

E.H. Montgomery General Store will host the event Friday and Saturday evenings, Jan. 2 and 3, from 4 until 9 p.m. Folks are invited to bring a finger food to share.

For more info call 704-267-9439 or see the events page at www.historicgoldhill.com

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The bluegrass jams held at the E.H. Montgomery General Store every Friday evening became so popular that owner Vivian Hopkins started branching out.

“Our store on Friday nights is packed,” she said. “So many musicians want to come and take part in what we’re doing here.” Therein lies the local revival of “Breakin’ Up Christmas.” The event invites people of all ages to come together to enjoy fellowship and share music while winding down the holiday season.

The store will seat about 40 people, but Hopkins said she expects spectators to float in and out.

Hopkins said both amateur and professionals musicians are expected to show up for the event, which she said is a tradition in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“It’s just like our jams,” she said. “We never know who or how many people will show up until they arrive.”

Hopkins said more than half century ago, people in the mountains of Southwest Virginia and Northwest North Carolina celebrated “Breakin’ Up Christmas” with house parties that included old-time string music, song and dance during the two week period that follows Christmas.

The 12-day celebration ran through Old Christmas, which is Jan. 6.

“Breakin’ Up Christmas” is both a name for the celebration and a song sung during that period,” Hopkins said.

“Growing up in the mountains, my dad played at some of these events, but as a kid I didn’t understand the significance of it; it just felt like a big party,” she said. “It’s been fun to bring the significance of these types of music to the forefront.”

Hopkins said more and more people have begun flocking to the Friday bluegrass nights.

“Bluegrass has quite a big following,” she said. “We have no electric instruments — it’s all acoustics — and people just love it.”

Those who have never gotten hooked on bluegrass or old-time music need not stay away Saturday, Hopkins said.

“I think everybody would enjoy it,” she said. “It’s something you have to hear live to really get the full experience.

“It exposes people to a different music culture.”

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