Traditions typically start out small – just some little thing we do time after time to remind us of the times that came before. For my mom, one big tradition was getting an orange in her Christmas stocking. That orange was special, something that signified Christmas, and she continued the tradition when my brother and I were young, even though modern refrigeration and shipping meant we could get oranges year-round. It was the reminder of her childhood that was important.
Holiday traditions have changed markedly over the 300-plus years since Europeans landed in the New World. Early settlers likely didn’t do much celebrating around Christmas (for a time, Puritans banned it) and you certainly wouldn’t have seen a Christmas tree in any Southern homes until the mid-19th century.
Some of these traditions were on display at the Living History Park
in North Augusta
, where visitors can come on the last Saturday of each month for a glimpse into the lives of early South Carolinians.
This month, the artisans and re-enactors at the park showed what 18th-century residents would have done to mark the holiday in the days before Black Friday sales that start on Thanksgiving Day.
The local woodworker might have carved some children’s toys, but more than likely, the treat was a big meal with lots of ale or wine and parlor games to pass the long winter night.
At the Living History Park, visitors will see the work of local potters and woodworkers. You can stop by the Mercantile to buy some examples of 18th-century crafts and taste some fantastic apple butter.
Our visit included a stop at the meetinghouse and a wink and a smile from Santa Claus dressed in his Victorian-era outfit (a little more subdued than the 20th-century Santa of suburban mall fame).
The park also has a tavern and a meandering stream fed by a gurgling underground spring.
Admission to the park is free, though donations are gratefully accepted. Most of the buildings are relatively new and are handicap-accessible. The last Saturday events are held 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The park’s largest program is Colonial Times
, a two-day event held on the third weekend in October.