SALEM, W.Va. (WBOY) – Fort New Salem held its 49th annual Spirit of Christmas in the Mountains event Sunday evening as a celebration of Appalachian Christmas traditions.

At the fort, visitors were treated to an 1800s smorgasbord of different activities like blacksmithing and pottery demonstrations, candlemaking, tin smithing, where you can make your own decorations, and a variety of food like Waissal (warm apple cider with lemon juice, orange juice cinnamon and other spices) and, of course, roasted chestnuts.

Roasted chestnuts at Fort New Salem (WBOY image)

The fort was started in 1972 and is made up of log cabin buildings from across north central West Virginia that were brought to the site.

Dr. Joseph Audia, Board Chair of the Fort New Salem Foundation, said that the two highlights of the event are the Belsnickel and the traditional Christmas tree lighting. The Belsnikel is a figure from German folklore who was a precursor to today’s Santa Claus, a fur-clad gift giver during Christmas time who would also leave sticks meant to be used on the naughty children.

“The whole concept was to not lose touch with the heritage culture of Appalachia,” Audia said. “Things like blacksmithing, tinsmithing, candle making, basket making, the things that people would have done in their own home to survive when West Virginia was Virginia back in the 1800s.”

If you were unable to make it to this evenings event, Fort New Salem has many other events throughout the year like the Dulcimer Festival in August, and the Myths in the Mountains storytelling event during the summer, where you can hear Appalachian folk tales during the night.