01 Dec The Circle of Giving by Julie Sibley
The Folk School began as community members embraced the Danish folk school hands-on learning concept. Folks in Brasstown gave land and labor with building materials, mules, and wagons to establish the first buildings on the campus. Now their descendants, along with visitors from around the world, enjoy the fruits of what they gave so thoughtfully.
The Holiday Season at the Folk School begins in early December, as the evergreens, pine cones and rhododendron leaves are gathered from nearby woods. According to Ellie Wilson, in her book Journey To Appalachia, the Folk School demonstrated how “the abundance of nature could be used to make all decorations for the tree and home.” This was especially important in the time that our country was still recovering from the Great Depression. Now it’s not so much a charmingly quaint custom, but a beautiful way to decorate that celebrates the connection between the health of nature and our own, as humans.
This year, as usual, community members gathered to help Folk School staff make the wreaths and garlands that decorate Keith House. Back in the 40s even the barn and chicken house were festooned in similar manner! The huge green wooden circle is brought out every year to hang over the large fireplace in the Community Room. It is dressed for the occasion with a circle of evergreens with a few brighter leaves inside for extra color.
The greening of the halls happened on the Saturday before Fireside Sale on Dec. 2nd. At Fireside Sale it is possible to see art in every medium: from wood, metal, cloth, and felt to paintings and photographs on paper. From near and far, people stopped in to shop for holiday gifts and to visit the local artists who support the Folk School in various ways. This tradition began as a “Thank You” from the school to community members. The vast array of handmade items gives visitors a chance to see and own beautiful hand crafted gifts.
This week, music fills the halls as the Brasstown (Bell) Ringers and other groups performed all week long during “Holiday in the Mountains” at the Folk School. The gift of music celebrates what is here now and reminds us of times past with our homes and the family that we grow through the years alongside. The songs we all love to sing together create goodness and cheer in our hearts!
Also this month the school is hosting it’s annual Children’s Christmas Party, on a Saturday (December 15) afternoon. Those young at heart skip up and down stairs to color ornaments, play games, see the Morris Dancers perform and to eat lovely decorated homemade cookies. This party had been going on since 1927! The Kids party is fun to go to just to experience the joy and wonder of the children’s spirits and to recall – you were once like this yourself!!
The giving between school and community here gives and gives back and forth again as the circle widens. All who see, hear and are touched add their own gifts and yet always leave with more than when they arrived.