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Christmas in Charleston – Free Events

DSC_1289by Amy Tankersley

In Charles Dickens’ 1843 classic tale, “A Christmas Carol”, Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by 3 spirits:

  • The Ghost of Christmas Past
  • The Ghost of Christmas Present
  • The Ghost of Christmas Future

Well, I’m going to write about “A Charleston Christmas” in reverse order:

  • Charleston Christmas Future (2015)
  • Charleston Christmas Present (2015)
  • Charleston Christmas Past (you’ll see)

“Charleston Christmas Future” is referring to your near-future Christmas Trip to Charleston , TGCITW (The Greatest City In The World), with the highlight of your trip being a walking or carriage tour with us.  If I am lucky enough to be your tour guide, I’ll tell you which well-known symbol of Christmas was introduced by a Charlestonian in the 1800’s. If you twist my arm, I’ll make a slight detour to show you his ancestor’s house from the 1700’s. (When we pass Elliott St., give me a shove and make me turn left) You just make sure to wear comfy shoes as we bee-bop down old colonial streets and burn up a calorie or two.

“Charleston Christmas Present” means all the great “Christmas-y” things to do here during your visit. First things first- it’s Oyster Season. Oysters and shrimp are harvested locally, and so you can expect them to be fresh. Ever been to an Oyster Roast? A classic Charleston winter season activity, it’s usually outdoors. Oysters are roasted and then thrown onto a table. Everyone grabs their oyster knife. You pry open your oysters and eat them with crackers and cocktail sauce washed down with copious amounts of beer, which is served for medicinal purposes only. Accompaniments usually include a number of side dishes, wine or other medicinal beverages to keep you warm (it is chilly outside after all), music, and friends (with or without benefits).

You may also enjoy your oysters in a warm cozy restaurant, so look for them on the menu. All the seafood restaurants do have several good non-seafood items on the menu for the one person in your group who lives an unfortunate, non-seafood life. And now for cool “Christmas-y” stuff to do, let’s start with free things:

The Farmer’s Market at Marion Square. Usually it’s on Saturdays only, but for the holiday season, they are doing it holiday-style on both Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am to 3 pm, at Marion Square for the first 3 weekends in December.  Farm-fresh produce, food, drink, arts, crafts, live entertainment…it’s worth going. Marion Square is bordered on 3 sides by Meeting St., Calhoun St., and King St.
Dec 5-20. 180 Meeting St 843-724-7305 free.

Second Sunday on King. Dec 13, 1 pm to 5 pm. On the second sunday of every month, King St. is closed to auto traffic and opened up for pedestrians only from Calhoun St. down to Queen St. A lively street fair. It starts at the intersection of King and Calhoun, which is at the southwest corner of Marion Square, so you can go directly from the Farmer’s Market to this event on Dec 13. free.

Art Walk in the French Quarter Fri, Dec 4, 5 pm to 8 pm. Always on the first friday of March, May, October, and December. You stroll from one art gallery to the next and look at art while consuming free wine and appetizers. Amazingly, the art gets more and more gorgeous as you go, no matter which gallery you start at. Free. 843-577-7101 Download a free map from the website.

Chanukah in The Square Sun, Dec 6, 4 pm to 6 pm. Marion Square. Music, dancing, lighting of the 9-foot Menorah by Charleston’s Holocaust survivors, and traditional jewish foods like latkes. Marion Square will really be hopping that day, as this event will follow The Farmer’s Market. (The pigeons will eat well.) Free.
843-724-7305  See their Facebook page here Chanukah in the Square

Holiday Parade of Boats Charleston Harbor. Sat Dec 12, 5 pm to 7:30 pm.  A Charleston Christmas tradition. People can enter their boats in the parade. It’s a flotilla of boats decorated in Christmas lights. It leaves from the Mount Pleasant side of the harbor, at the mouth of the Cooper River, on the east side of the peninsula, and floats around the peninsula to the mouth of the Ashley River on the west side of the Peninsula, and so there is no lack of viewing spots available. This event is awesome. Dress warmly. Free.

Annual City of Charleston Holiday Parade Sun Dec 6, 2 pm. Starts at Barre St. and Broad St. which is at the western end of Broad. Will proceed east on Broad, and turn left on King St. and head north, ending at King and Calhoun, which is at the southwest corner of Marion Square. Free.

Happy New Year in Marion Square Thurs, Dec 31, 4 pm to 10:30 pm. A family-oriented, alternative New Years celebration. Music, comedy, dance, street entertainment, children’s activities. Dress warmly. Free.

These seven events I just listed are all free, and are all in the historic district, walking distance from each other. This next one is not free, but it’s cheap. It is not in the historic district. You’ll need a car. But it’s worth it, so get your tail out there.

Holiday Festival of Lights James Island County Park. Seven nights a week till January 3rd. Sunday through thursday- 5:30 to 10:00 pm
Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 11:00 pm
$15.00 per vehicle, (a maximum of 15 people per vehicle)
vehicles with 16-30 people= $40.00
vehicles with 31+ people = $100.00
871 Riverland Dr., Charleston,SC 29412 843-795-4386 or 843-795-7275 or
This is a 3-mile, slow-driving adventure through a wonderland of lights.
700 displays, and 2 million lights. One of the top holiday light displays in the country.
You can simply do the drive-through only, or, once inside, you can also park your car at the Winter Wonderland, and do some walking through the Enchanted Forest, ride the train, visit Santa’s Sweet Shoppe, roast marshallows, browse the gift shop, and look at displays like the giant sand sculpture (which is what we use instead of snow to build cool and awesome winter sculptures, cuz, baby, we got sand, and lots of it) You might be waiting in a long line of cars to get in, so go ahead and expect it now . Go Zen. Relax. Have music and pleasant conversation in the car. Tune your radio to 102.5 FM. Don’t get all “road rage-y”. Breathe. Chill. (And go to the bathroom before you go). If you are one of those “ultra A-types” who cannot sit in a long line, please stay in your hotel. This magical winter wonderland is not for you, unless your family can maybe give you a mild sedative and let someone else drive.

Well, that’s some of the free and cheap stuff, and by now, you can see that we don’t need snow to have a great Christmas southern style. In my next post, I will list things that cost money. But spending money is good for the economy, so be a patriotic American, and leave some money behind in Charleston, (TGCITW)

As Tiny Tim said, “God Bless us, everyone”
Later, Amy

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