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Foundation Matters

Historic Charleston during the Holidays

Posted: December 8, 2022

Back this year, we’re thrilled to close out 2022 with the Nathaniel Russell House Candlelight Tours!

Courtesy of CCPL.

New this year, tours are focusing on historical holidays, and how families like the Russells would have celebrated during the Christmas season and we’re also taking a look at how those celebrations affected the lives of the enslaved on the property. Most of what we think of as “historical” Christmas traditions are actually not that old! They date largely to the 1850s and later (the Victorian Era), or the first half of the 20th century here in America.

When did the Russell family actually celebrate a gift-giving holiday? Likely not until sometime after December 25th, and possibly as late as January 6, after the new year began. Did the enslaved community participate, and did they get time off to celebrate in their own ways? Christmas trees were not popular decorations yet, and most of the traditional Christmas tunes we associate with this holiday hadn’t been written yet. Even “A Visit From St. Nick” (aka “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) wasn’t published until after Nathaniel Russell’s death.

SO – we’re inviting people to come explore the holidays BEFORE what we think of as the “traditional American Christmas”, and to make pomanders (oranges studded with cloves, a historical decoration and potpourri item) to take home as a little treat. With expertly guided tours by Nathaniel Russell House docents and staff, guests will have a chance to enjoy the holidays in the magic of candlelight at this 1808 mansion. Learn more from Foundation curators and expert docents, join us on December 14 through the 17th with tours on the half-hour from 6 pm through 7:30 pm.


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