Growing up in Campbell County, Jill Kitts Bond was surrounded with family traditions, especially during Christmas.
On Monday, Dec. 7, Bond will share some of those traditions at the next presentation in the Blount County Public Library’s Southern Appalachian Studies Series, “Memories of a Family Christmas with Jill Bond.” She will be ushering in the holiday season with songs and Christmas memories from her mountain home, accompanied on the guitar by Justin Marcus and harmonizing with her son, Colin, on some selections.
“I will talk about my family, both sides,” Bond said, including the Kitts and Weaver families in Campbell County. “I didn’t think it was unusual growing up, but I was actually with both sides of the family on Christmas Eve—grandparents and great-grandparents. Being in church, Christmas plays with food, Christmas caroling—everything centered around that.”
Bond’s Grandmother Kitts learned a special poem when she was about 7 or 8 years old, and before the family opened presents each year, she would recite the poem, “Annie and Willie’s Prayer” by Sophia P. Snow.
“She would put us in the big room next to the fire, and when we all settled down, she would say that poem,” Bond recalled. “Several years before she passed away, I asked her to write it down for me, and I have a handwritten copy of it.” She added, “After she passed, I found it in a book of American poetry. She had remembered it, almost word for word.”
Bond’s 18-year-old, Colin, will be reciting the poem at the program.
“Mamaw always came up with the greatest things to give for Christmas presents, and I’ll share some of those stories,” Bond said.
Her Grandmother Weaver was a wonderful cook, and Bond will talk about the traditional Christmas dinner. “She made it special for everybody,” Bond said. “Being with family, sharing those traditions, being in church together, keeping that heritage that I’ve been handed down and sharing some of those things with my children, and hopefully, they will share them with their
children one day.”
Music played a large role in the Kitts family. “I’m going to be sharing a couple of old hymns that people will be familiar with and also singing a couple of songs they may not have heard before,” Bond said. “One of them I may sing is ‘Tell Me His Name Again.’
“One year, my grandmother gave me her songbook for Christmas,” she said. “It’s all handwritten, old songs and ballads. This song is one of them that my dad sings, that my grandmother sang.”
Everyone has family traditions such as these, and Bond believes it’s important to cherish them and to love your family members while they’re still here.
“Now that I’m older, I see how important it is not to take that for granted,” Bond said. “You will always have your memories, and it’s very meaningful.” Passing down those traditions to the next generations is another way to keep the memories alive even as new traditions are made when the older generations have passed away.
Linda Marcus,a reference librarian at the Blount County Public Library, coordinates the Southern Appalachian Studies Series.
She said, “The Southern Appalachian Studies Series has focused on the holiday season for our end of the year program. The first year, 2016, the Rev. Charles Maynard talked about Olde Christmas and how Christmas was not different from any other day of the year—the chores had to be done. In subsequent years, we have featured a storyteller, Roxanna Jones, and Appalachian musicians, The Pair Family.
“This year I have asked Jill Bond to present the program. Jill grew up in the heart of Southern Appalachia in East Tennessee and has a unique perspective on family and Christmas memories. She also has a beautiful voice and it just makes you feel good to hear her sing. I thought this combination would make a wonderful program for this time of year. I have been listening to Jill sing for several years in the Fairview United Methodist Church Choir and with the bluegrass gospel group Sonrize. Not only does Jill have an amazing voice, she has passed it on to her son, Colin, who will join her for some of the selections. She will be accompanied instrumentally by Justin Marcus, who is also a member of Sonrize. I think our patrons are in for a treat.”