There is a tradition in Appalachia of observing “Old Christmas” on January 6. Folklore suggests that animals speak in the middle of the night on Old Christmas.
But it turns out, you don’t have to wait till January 6 to hear goats singing to Christmas carols.
We heard about these music-loving goats through Connie Bailey-Kitts, who lives in Bluefield, Virginia. Her goats love to listen to a church organ she keeps on her property. The organ dates back to the 1920s. Her family bought it about 50 years ago.
“So my brother Darrell goes to my dad and he says, ‘How much do you think I should offer for the organ?’” Bailey-Kitts recalled. “And my dad, being the local veterinarian and world class horse trader, said, ‘Oh, I think you should offer maybe about $25 for it.’”
So, the family bought the organ from a nearby church for $25. Bailey-Kitts said she believes the organ originally was worth at least $10,000.
The organ is enormous, created to be used in a church. It has more than 600 metal and wooden pipes, and they all play a different note.
Bailey-Kitts’ family moved the organ to their farm. Her brother, Darrell, is a classically trained musician, and he would often play the organ at family gatherings, particularly at Christmastime.
A few years ago, Bailey-Kitts’ father passed away, and most of her family lives scattered across the country, so they rarely get to see each other these days. This year, her brother couldn’t make the trip, due to the weather. So, Bailey-Kitts and her husband started a new tradition of inviting neighbors over to sing carols.
They played songs like “All Come All The Faithful”, “Joy to the World”, and “Hark the Harold Angels Sing”.
Their neighbor Susan Allen played the organ for a small gathering of children and adults, and Bailey-Kitts’ goats gathered around the organ too.
“If they hear the music playing, they’ll come down from the field when the organ’s playing,” she said. “And the organ’s really, really powerful. It’s got a really big sound, and they’re drawn to it.”
Bailey-Kitts said her goats will lift their ears up like they’re trying to catch more of the sound of the organ.
“I think they don’t know quite what to make of it,” she said. “It doesn’t intimidate them either. It’s just amazing.”
This story is part of a holiday episode of Inside Appalachia.