Throughout the year, visitors immerse themselves in the architectural and cultural character of historic Charleston by touring house museums, expertly preserved dwellings that showcase and interpret the plantation class lifestyle. During the holiday season, many of these museums harken back to their founding days with special displays of heirloom decorations.
Nathaniel Russell House
At the Nathaniel Russell House, the dining room table is laden with sugared fruits, syllabubs, cakes and sweetmeats—popular fare of the early 1800s, when religious services and family meals were the crux of holiday celebrations.
By the mid 1800s, the Aiken-Rhett House was one of Charleston's most fashionable residences, and its owners embraced the budding popularity of decorated trees, a trend born of the Victorian Age, which is artfully recreated today.
Christmas of Yesteryear
Free range sheep meander in and out of the stableyard at Middleton Place, the former rice plantation located on the banks of the Ashley River. Interpreters invite visitors to discover the traditions and crafts of the colonial era, with pottery, weaving, blacksmithing and candle-dipping demonstrations.
The poinsettia, the flame of a flower affiliated with Christmas, is native to Mexico, but its geographical destiny by a Charlestonian named Joel Roberts Poinsett. In 1828, Poinsett was dispatched as the first ambassador to Mexico. The flora of the foreign post fascinated the amateur botanist, and he carried clippings home to the Lowcountry. After successfully cultivating the plant in his greenhouse, Poinsett began sharing the exotic flower with friends and family. Today the "painted leaf" flower is synonymous with the Christmas season and is officially celebrated every December 12th, the Congressionally designated National Poinsettia Day that commemorates Poinsett's work.