Oldest city of the Lowcountry* and also known as the Holy City*, Charleston is a beloved destination for travelers. Famous for its landmarks, culture, cuisine and values, it holds many treasures. We were therefore eager to learn about its Christmas celebrations from a Charlestonian.
Born and raised in the city, now married and mother of little Laura aged 2, Aubrie kindly agreed to share about her family's Christmas and that of Charleston.
CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN AT HOME
We begin baking and decorating on the 1st of December. The lingering smell of warm gingerbread fills the rooms from baking in the oven and decorating gingerbread houses. Each year I also enjoy baking loaves of chocolate chip banana nut bread for our daughter. It is a typical American recipe and her favorite holiday treat!
Chocolate Chip Banana Nut Bread Recipe
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mash 4 ripe bananas in a mixing bowl.
3. Add the following:
¼ cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Bittersweet chocolate baking chips
4. Mix all together, pour into a banana bread pan, and bake for 40-45 minutes.
Magnolia leaves are collected as they flutter from our native trees. We intertwine leaves with holly to create a divine mantelpiece, tabletop centerpiece, or a decorative front door wreath.
Together we decorate the exterior and interior of our home, set the tree with beaded garlands, assorted handmade ornaments and sparkling lights just perfect enough to be seen throughout the house as Frank Sinatra is heard playing in the background. Each year our family chooses one new ornament to hang on our tree. Usually it represents a special place that we have visited or holds memory to a particular event.
The two ornaments that hold a special place in my heart were handmade by artist Tricia Lowenfield. The first is a detailed rendering of our wedding portrait and the exact gown I wore.
The second is irreplaceable as it is a rendition of my daughter and represents her first Christmas.
The nativity scene is set to perfection and baby Jesus will be placed in his manger on Christmas morning! My grandmother, Claudette, made it in 1973. It's ceramic painted in the gold paint. My grandfather Travis built the stable to go with it.
We continue the decorations throughout the house. Laura’s room displays a miniature, multi-colored lit tree that sits on her dresser, and garland strung with lights hangs from her bookshelves.
THE FESTIVE SEASON IN CHARLESTON
Each year our friends and family look forward to driving through the annual light show at James Island County Park’s Holiday Festival of Lights. One can expect to receive a magical auditory and visual light show displaying all things Christmas.
The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, among the largest in town, sparkles bright creating a beautiful golden reflection upon the water. Rebuilt a few decades ago, the Festival of Lights gives the opportunity to "see" both the former and newer bridge.
The famous Angel Oak, over a hundred years old tree, also offers a spectacular view, it is decorated with a beautiful bow.
Each year, an amazing sand sculpture is also created for the festival.
The peninsula of Charleston is filled with holiday magic, including horse drawn carriages decorated to fit a king and queen. Candlelit windows and large cotton wreaths can be seen on houses as you stroll the streets of downtown.
When it comes to Christmas shopping, Charlestonians must act fast. Being a small city on the peninsula, the toys and goodies sell quickly. You often see families pause for a moment and enjoy the magnificent window displays that are so thoughtfully designed and orchestrated.
Two of my all-time favorites are Jeffrey Bannon Ltd. and Croghan’s Jewel Box.
Jeffrey Bannon Ltd. found its home in Charleston and will be celebrating their 15th anniversary this year. They carry a unique variety of designers and specialty lines that one would typically find traveling abroad.
Croghan’s Jewel Box is the oldest family owned jewelry boutique in town! Founded over a hundred years ago, it grew from a small store to one of Charleston’s most beloved treasure troves. Offering a stunning curation of artisanal pieces and top quality service, you will be sure to find gifts for that special someone and the perfect jewels just to treat yourself.
Christmas Eve arrives and that’s when the excitement really sets in. We prepare a special gift box for our daughter to open and enjoy. This year's one contains one pair of beautiful holiday pajamas from Petite Plume, a Christmas movie : Frozen, and one delicious bag of popcorn.
Last but not least, you can spot a charming Posey bunny from Parterre on the left of the box. Just launched by Julia Berolzheimer and Hanna Seabrook both living in Charleston, the brand offers a gorgeous curation of collections for women, children and home. You can see me wearing a beautiful Parterre floral print design along with a Sarah Bray Bermuda hat, another of my favourite designers creating seagrass and palm leaf sun hats woven with interchangeable ribbons.
You can find us surrounded by friends and family, reflecting on the year spent and giving thanks for all we have been blessed with. We cozy up, watch our holiday movie, adults sipping on hot toddies, and the children anxiously awaiting Christmas morning.
We are big fans of cinnamon, and Fireball really gives the hot toddy a nice flavor. Six ounces of Fireball is used in this particular recipe. Double or triple your recipe if you are serving to a crowd.
Cinnamon Fireball Cider recipe :
- Place 4 cups of apple cider, 1 sliced orange, 1/2 cup of fresh cranberries, 3 rosemary sprigs, and 2 cinnamon sticks (or teaspoon of ground cinnamon) into a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium to high heat.
- Once boiling, turn the burner down to low and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
- While the cider simmers, pour 1.5 ounces of Fireball into your glass along with an orange slice and a few cranberries.
- Pour the hot apple cider mixture on top of your Fireball and stir.
- Serve hot.
It’s Christmas morning and the overwhelming silence in the house before anyone wakes is incredibly peaceful. Our traditional family breakfast is composed of a Christmas Kringle filling the home with a delicious smell while it cooks in the oven, along with berries and crisp bacon. The Kringle we enjoy is a 36-layer flakey Danish pastry with a cinnamon and sugar filling topped with icing. When the Kringle arrives fresh on our doorstep, it’s challenging to keep our hands off until Christmas morning.
We wake Laura to breakfast in bed and read aloud A Christmas Story. Once finished, we walk to the living room and find Santa Claus has paid her a visit. Our daughter’s eyes, completely filled with amazement, leaves us speechless and joyful!
Many things in this world divide us, but during this particular season we all share some type of holiday spirit.
To learn more about Charleston, follow the account Explorecharleston on Instagram
* The "Low Country" is the geographic and cultural region along South Carolina's coast, including the Sea Islands. At the origin it defined all the land below the Fall line.
*Due to the many church steeples across its skyline, Charleston was nicknamed the Holy City.