Halloween Traditions from the Old World to Appalachia

Where did modern-day Halloween traditions originate?

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These beautiful hills of Appalachia were settled by folks from all over the world. In fact, Newman’s Ridge in Hancock County, Tennessee is famous as the homeplace of Melungeons, a group of people with mixed heritage, notably European, African and Native American.

But many of our cultural traditions, like carving Jack-O-Lanterns, came from the British Isles. In the old country, folks carved turnips to make lanterns this time of year. When migrants encountered pumpkins, it was decided they made much better spooky heads! And so, our modern form of celebrating Halloween by carving faces into pumpkins was born.

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Halloween is also a time of change; the weather gets cold, and summer has officially faded away until next year. Folks like the Celts (a common source of ancestry for Appalachians) marked this time of year by bringing their livestock closer to home and settling in for the winter months. This was also the time of year to acknowledge and celebrate the spirits of those who had died. Samhain was the Celtic festival dedicated to these ancestral spirits. Our modern-day practice of dressing up in spooky costumes and visiting our neighbors, and of scaring the heck out of each other, has its roots in Samhain.

All Souls’ Day is also marked by an older version of Trick-or-Treating, when children went door-to-door begging for “soul cakes.” For each cake received, the children said a prayer for an ancestral soul. Today, over 85% of Americans give out sugary treats on Halloween! This holiday by far outweighs all the others for candy sales and consumption. (Yes, even Valentine’s Day!)

Bobbing for apples isn’t as popular at Halloween parties these days, but in Colonial America and in the old country, it was a way to predict who was getting married next in the village! It was like a wedding bouquet toss—only edible! The object of the game was simple: whoever bit an apple first would be the next to marry. Apples are a major harvest this time of year, and we still celebrate fall’s arrival with delicious apple cider, apple pie and candied apples.

Probably the most popular modern reason that families have for celebrating Halloween in East Tennessee is community enjoyment. Many neighborhoods go all out, decorating the yard, even cooking out on the grill with other community members while kids roam around Trick-or-Treating, dressed up in costumes and enjoying the festive atmosphere.

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Not all the ghosts, goblins and spirits were left in the old world, though. Appalachian folklore is full of haints and boogers! A mixture of superstition, terrifying wild creatures (like mountain cats, called painters, that screamed like tortured women) and spooky, foggy surroundings make for the perfect backdrop for fireside ghost stories.

Appalachian Ghost Walks was a major resource for this blog on the great history behind how Appalachians (and most Americans!) celebrate Halloween. If you like history, and you’d like a spooky tour in our area, then go on one of their Ghost Walks.

Be safe this Halloween!

If, while you’re out trick-or-treating, you see a neighborhood you’d like to call home, visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com.

 

Happy Halloween!

If you’re looking for some family-friendly Halloween activities, we’ve got you covered!

Halloween is fast approaching! East Tennessee loves its ghosts and goblins. (We wrote here about some popular local haunts.)

Many neighborhoods still gear up for trick-or-treating, turning on those porch lights and decking out the house in spooky decorations. There are many other fun ways to celebrate this creepy time of year, too! If you’re looking for some family-friendly Halloween activities, we’ve got you covered! Read on to find out more.

Trunk or Treat

This spooky tradition is a fun, safe way to dress up and trick-or-treat … with cars! Locals dress themselves and their cars up in silly or spooky ways and hand out treats to little princesses, super heroes and any other kids who come out in costume! 2017’s event details for local Trunk or Treat events are as follows:

Morristown: 5 p.m., October 31, Trunk or Treat at the Farmer’s Market. (There’s also Trick or Treating downtown at the same time.)

Rogersville:  5 p.m. October 31, Trunk or Treat in the Historic District. Call 423-272-2186 for more information.

Jefferson City: Saturday, October 28, Trunk or Treat at the Fair Grounds. Call 423-312-1081 to find out more!

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Boo at the Zoo!

This annual favorite at Zoo Knoxville is geared toward little ones, from infants through elementary age. This activity is a fun way to see some of your favorite animal friends while loading up on candy, donated by local businesses. Proceeds from the event go toward zoo programs like the Species Survival Program, helping endangered animals survive extinction. Expect to see some of your favorite book and movie characters throughout the zoo, and lots of smiling faces!

Boo at the Zoo: Three weekends in October, from 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Admission is $9 per person over 4 years old (free for kids under 4) and parking is free for this event.

Dates: October 12 – 15, 19 – 22, 26 – 29

Corn Mazes

Here’s a trade secret you probably didn’t know: maze creators use GPS equipment on their tractors to carve out mazes in the corn fields. I bet corn mazes look pretty amazing from the sky!

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This corn maze, in Sevierville, is celebrating its 10th season. The maze will be open through October 29, so get out and get lost!

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In Jefferson City, this maze is great for groups and families. Admission is $15, but that covers a lot: even a free pumpkin for the kids! The maze stays open until November 4.

Oakes Farm

In Corryton, this family-friendly attraction is a whole lot more than just a corn maze. Check them out for pumpkins, food, games and tons of activities.

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Weather this time of year can be pretty unpredictable; an 80-degree day can plunge quickly into a 40-degree night! So make sure you check the forecast and dress accordingly. Layers are always a good idea during the fall in East Tennessee. And be sure to use safety lights, like flash lights and glow sticks, and have a safety plan in place with your kids whether you’re out trick-or-treating or getting lost in the corn!

 

Looking for a (not haunted) house? Check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com! Happy Halloween!

 

What Retirees Want!

You might be surprised at today’s retiree’s choices.

Most people, when they hear about retirees moving or looking to buy a new home, imagine somewhere sunny, with palm trees, and something small, like a condo or considerably downsized house. According to this survey on Forbes.com, performed in 2015, those antiquated ideas are way off!

So what are today’s retirees into, when it comes to this new phase of home life?

Staying Put

Surprisingly, most boomers choose not to relocate to a new state when buying a new home. And downsizing is becoming a myth! Many of today’s retirees choose a similar-sized home, or even one that is a little bigger. Why? To make room for visitors, family, and even hobbies. In fact, the most popular home improvement project for a retiree is adding on a personal office!

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Less retirees are choosing this scene for their daily lives.

Freedom Threshold

It’s no surprise that the boomer generation rejects the old view of retirement: relaxing in the sun, living in a tiny condo. Today’s retiree has planned meticulously to live their lives to the fullest! They are choosing lifestyles based on the things they like and want, instead of living where they have an easy commute to work or better access to schools for their kids. This mindset is called the Freedom Threshold.

The biggest advantage of reaching the Freedom Threshold? Living longer! Stats show that retirees aren’t just fading away after punching their last time card. Instead, they’re living longer, fuller lives, and choosing dream homes they’ve saved for instead of just settling for something tiny.

So what is the biggest motivator for retirees when choosing their next home? Proximity to family. Retirees who stay in-state do so to be close to family, and 29% those who move away have the same reason: to follow family.

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Survey says: family is the most important factor in retirees deciding where to live.

Not Just Fun and Games

Proximity of family is also on this checklist of things to consider when planning a retirement relocation, on CNBC.com. In addition, if you’re looking to make a major lifestyle change (in addition to retiring!) keep in mind differences in taxes from state to state, and whether keeping your original residence to rent out or selling it outright will be more advantageous.

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Even though schools and work commute are no longer as important, you should still weigh your options carefully.

Medical care is also a major consideration. Even if you plan to snowbird north for the summer or south for the winter, you shouldn’t rely only on doctors in your home state. Even in rural areas, Tennessee has good access to emergency care, and clinics and hospitals are a short drive in most locations. But, still, do your homework and make sure you like the local medical care before committing!

Consider East Tennessee

Here in East Tennessee, the same mild climate, beautiful landscape, low cost of living and pleasant standard of living—including tons of stuff to do!—are good for both young, working families and those looking to retire. In Tennessee, you can get the best of both worlds: staying close to family, and living well on a fixed income!

 

If you’re looking to retire in East Tennessee, and you want to find your dream home, check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com. We’d love to help.

Heating Bill Comparison

Let’s take a look at the cost of heating our homes in East Tennessee.

It’s officially Fall, Y’All, and it’s the time of year for lovely leaves (which haven’t reached their peak yet,) gorgeous, bright harvest moons, and crisp nights and mornings. We haven’t yet hit a hard frost this season, and lots of people stay comfy even in the chillier weather by shutting their windows and bundling up in warm sweaters and socks.

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But we know the real cold is on its way! And, since we’re proud of how affordable the cost of living here in Tennessee is, we thought we’d take a look at how much it costs to heat a home in our fair state. Electricity Local is a website that compares the cost of electricity, and how much electricity is used, with the rest of the country. According to them, Tennesseans spend an average of $123 per month on the household electric bill. If you read further, you’ll notice that’s actually higher than the average electric bill in America, by a little over 14%.

But wait, didn’t we say bills are lower, here?

They are! The rate for electricity in Tennessee averages 10.1 cents/kWh, ranking us 37th in the nation. That’s pretty good. Our cost for electricity is about 15% lower than the average in this country. And, because the cost of electricity is more affordable, more people use electric means (like heat pumps) to heat their homes in the cooler months!

If you opt to subsidize your heating needs with gas, or good old firewood, then your electric bill will be even lower. We also have plenty of choices in Tennessee for solar power, which can be purchased on a lease-to-own basis or with a lump sum. Going this route means your electric bills will dwindle down to nil. In many cases, solar power consumers get paid by TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority), because their solar panels produce enough power to sell some back to the grid! That’s a pretty sweet way to put our average of 204 days of sunshine per year to good use.

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But, what about other sources of heat for the home? Around here, natural gas is pretty popular. It delivers heat quickly. In comparing the cost of gas with electricity, we can check out Energy Models, a website that specializes in this sort of thing. The biggest challenge in the comparison is that electricity is measured by kWh, and natural gas rates come in dollars per therm. Those aren’t easily convertible units! We went to this website for a better explanation:

There are 100,000 Btus per therm of natural gas. There are 3413 Btus per kilowatt hour of electricity.

To Calculate The Comparison:

Multiply the cost per kilowatt hour X 29.3 to get the cost of 100,000 Btus of electricity and compare that cost, to the cost of one therm of natural gas, which can be found on your monthly statement.

Example: If your cost of electricity is $.08 per Kwh, then multiply $.08 X 29.3 = $2.34 for 100,000 Btus of electricity, then compare that cost, to the cost of one therm of natural gas, which can be found on your monthly statement.

The upshot is this: natural gas is, actually, cheaper to use in heating your home. BUT, installing a natural gas heater, and maintenance, too, costs more money.

 

If you want to make East Tennessee your home this fall, check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com!

Volunteer Spirit

Again and again, Tennesseans prove why we’re the Volunteer State.

Last year, much of our beloved Smoky Mountains National Park was destroyed by wildfires. Much of Gatlinburg also burned, and that community was left with many scars. But, through volunteers and programs like Mountain Strong and Dolly Parton’s My People fund, Gatlinburg and the surrounding area has come a long way toward healing.

Tennesseans are called Volunteers, not just because we support the University of Tennessee, but because we are famous for stepping up when help is needed. During the Mexican-American war, when President Polk called for 2,600 troops to volunteer in America, Tennessee showed up with 30,000 men, ready to fight. This was after the Alamo, and former Tennessee Governor Sam Houston demanded great loyalty from his home state. This year, Houston needed help again, and Tennesseans showed up, again!

This hurricane season has been horrific, with Harvey and Irma causing devastation with record-breaking flooding in Houston and massive destruction of homes and land in the Florida Keys and along the West Coast of the sunshine state. Many people came up to East Tennessee to escape Irma’s fury, seeking refuge in the safety of our mountains.

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Now that the storms have passed, relief is needed, and Tennesseans have once again proven they go above and beyond the call of duty. Celebrities like Kenny Chesney and Dolly Parton donate time and money, but regular Tennesseans step up to help, too.  Tennesseans in Nashville and Knoxville showed up in droves with boats and other watercraft hitched to their vehicles, ready to drive to Houston for search and rescue efforts.  Knoxville firefighters, emergency responders, churches and volunteers donated time, money and relief supplies to help people whose lives were disrupted by these natural disasters. Knoxville residents are raising money for relief efforts in both Houston and Florida through sales of these t-shirts.

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It’s easy to watch the morning news and believe that we don’t care about each other in this country, that hatred and arguments and irreconcilable differences are the new cultural norm in America. But, when disaster strikes, we help each other. We rescue our fellow human beings from the floods, and bring food and drinking water to those who need it. So many people responded to the call for help in Houston that volunteers had to be turned away! Tennesseans were front and center in the big-hearted groups who showed up.

We’re proud to call Tennessee our home, and we love the giving hearts of our neighbors.

If you’re looking for a Tennessee home, too, visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com.

First Day of Fall!

Read about some of our favorite Tennessee fall things!

Fall is an especially sweet time in Tennessee. It’s one of the top-ranking reasons for people to relocate here: they love the changing of the seasons, but want mild weather. Tennessee delivers the best of seasons with minimal extremes, like snow storms or 100-degree summer days! Read on to find out some of our fall favorites in East Tennessee:

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Apple Butter

This Tennessee favorite isn’t butter at all; it’s creamy, sweet, smooth apple all cooked up and made into a spreadable treat. You don’t cut out the cores to make apple butter; you cook all the parts of the apple together before processing out the parts that wouldn’t be good to eat. Natural pectin is inside the apple core, which helps apple butter to firm up. During the fall in East Tennessee, you can find big cauldrons of apple butter being stirred up by wooden paddles in fall festivals! And if you can’t get to a festival, local tractor supply stores and small businesses usually start carrying this seasonal favorite. You could always try making your own, too. Click here for a simple recipe.

Apple Cider

If your idea of apple cider is something you shake out of a little packet and mix with microwaved water, then you definitely don’t know what you’re missing! In the Smokies, apple harvests were preserved for generations with family recipes like apple butter, apple preserves and apple cider. These recipes were a way to make apples last through the cold months, when fresh, growing things were scarce. Traditional apple cider is made with several varieties of apples, which are crushed and pressed until juice (and some bits of fruit) comes out. The pectin in the fresh product is good for you (and can’t be found in powdered cider drinks!). Traditional cider is a little bit alcoholic; the fruit ferments. That was another way apple cider warmed the body during winter months.

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Gorgeous Leaves

People from all over the country make the pilgrimage to view our famous, eye-popping fall leaves every year. Depending on rain fall, seasonal temperatures and some unknown mystery-factor, leaves reach peak colors sometime in October (usually!) It’s the perfect time for a hike in the majestic Smoky Mountains, especially since the weather is refreshingly crisp.

Crisp Nights

Fall brings with it the nostalgic smell of wood smoke, both from bonfires and fireplaces, where families enjoy one of the most ancient creature comforts known to man: a cozy fire! Even if you prefer the convenience of turning up the thermostat on chilly nights, fall just feels cozier with a warm fire. This is that great, transitional time of year when your favorite sweater is just right; you don’t need to bundle up in a winter coat just yet, and the heat of the summer is fading away. Our fall days can be pleasantly warm, too, and even more pleasant with the summer humidity fading away!

 

If you’re looking for the perfect place to snuggle in and enjoy the fall weather, visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com to search for listings in our neck of the woods!

 

Maximalism!

Maximalism is coming back in response to minimalism!

We’ve written before about how millenials are all about minimalism. The trends today are all about smaller homes, smaller footprints on the environment, even capsule wardrobes to minimize the amount of clothes that need to fit inside the smaller closet!

The idea behind it comes from many cultural sources, but probably the most modern and recognizable is this book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. The author put together a life philosophy and style and created an entire social movement! In her view, if something is not useful to you, or very beautiful, then get rid of it! So, no keeping your grandmother’s old shoes, or that falling-down piece of furniture (unless you truly think those things are useful or beautiful.) It’s a great philosophy to kick-start your decluttering efforts.

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Some people get really, really into the minimalist lifestyle, squeezing a four-person family into a renovated school bus, or throwing out everything in their kitchen except enough plates for four people, a food processor and two pans! The movement has become a kind of challenge: how little can you live with?

But there is a backlash coming in the style world, and it’s one that many of our boomers will recognize: it’s maximalism! Instead of simple, clean design with neutral colors and only a few pieces of furniture to adorn a room, maximalism is all about color, and patterns and squeezing in as much as you possibly can into one space!

Of course, you could go way too far with the idea, and keep way, way too much. That’s the danger of this end of the style spectrum: you could risk becoming a pack rat for fear of throwing something out that might be useful or stylish or just plain catch your fancy again in a year or two.

Interestingly, while minimalism seems to embrace small-home living as a means of saving money, forcing the minimum of physical belongings and reducing our environmental footprint, maximalism doesn’t really fit into a specific-sized place. It’s more about filling up whatever space is available.

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Parents of small children especially relate to the tug-of-war between maximalism and minimalism! A room overflowing with toys can get overwhelming, making even the most practical parent break down and scream, “That’s it! We’re getting rid of everything in here!” But, still, each new holiday or visit to the grandparents’ house brings on something else that’s colorful and fun, and deserves a place of honor somewhere in the house (preferably the kids’ rooms!)

The truth is that most of us probably fit somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. We like a little bit of color, have a collection or two of things that may not really be necessary but make us happy. It’s probably a good idea to go through once every year or two and clean out our stuff, throw away clothes that haven’t fit in years or dishes that might be pretty but are broken and just live in the garage now.

So where do you fit into the spectrum? Do you like to pile on the color and texture in your home, or do you prefer a more serene environment?

Whether you’re into minimalism or maximalism, we can help you find your next home to make your own. Visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com to search our listings.