The holiday season conjures thoughts of sleigh bells and snow balls for many of us, but an entirely different set of traditions and icons set the character elsewhere in the country.
Wherever you go, the season is about family, friends, counting your blessings and helping others.
Our adventure takes us down South for the season, where heartfelt – and sometimes peculiar – things happen on streets, in towns and on waterways below the Mason-Dixon line.
Helping Kids in Middle Tennessee
We begin in Middle Tennessee with Christmas for Kids, a series of events that raise funds to bring the joy of Christmas to hundreds of children. Many of our entertainer converter partners, and their customers, helped organize and start this kindhearted tradition, and Prevost has been happy to lend a hand since its inception in 1992.
In Middle Tennessee, there’s no better way to begin festivities than with a concert featuring Charlie Daniels & Friends. It’s Monday, Nov. 21, 7 pm at the Ryman Auditorium, and in addition to Charlie Daniels, you’ll also hear from Sawyer Brown, Phil Vassar, Colt Ford and Joe Nichols. Tickets are available at http://christmas4kids.org/
Don’t miss the Tour Bus Show on Dec. 12 from 5-9 p.m. For a small donation to help the kids, this unique event features tours of more than 50 buses of today’s top artists, some of whom will be on-hand to meet fans and sign autographs. The following day, a 5-mile long parade features more than 70 tour buses and culminates in a shopping spree for chaperoned underprivileged children, many of whom choose to buy gifts for family members instead of themselves. Lunch at the event is provided by Garth Brooks.
Once you’ve kicked-up your holiday spirit in Middle Tennessee, it’s time to head for the Lowcountry to take-in the finest Southern hospitality.
Southern Civility in the Lowcountry
South Carolina’s Lowcountry is both a geographic and social identifier. So named because the area is mostly near or below sea level, the Lowcountry includes a mingling of cultures and history that draw from European, African, Caribbean, and Native American roots.
The Lowcountry also is home to Charleston, known as The Holy City, for its prominence of churches that dot the cityscape. Charleston was recognized in 1995 as the “best mannered” city in the U.S. by Marjabelle Young Stewart, America’s most published etiquette expert, and the City engenders a quintessentially Southern civility and charm during the holiday season. Bright lights, the aroma of Charleston cuisine, and Gullah (also known as Sea Island Creole) spirituals fill the night air. There’s something for every spirit and palate here.
Start with a drive through the Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park, where – from Nov. 10 through Jan. 1 – more than 2 million lights provide an enchanting 3-mile tour.
Take in the Holiday Parade of Boats on Dec. 3 aboard the Carolina Belle and enjoy the Blues and BBQ Harbor Cruise. Juke Joint Johnny will be playing red-hot blues, and they’ll be plenty of South Carolina BBQ to savor as you watch dozens of boats, decked for the holidays, parade past.
Next, visit The Market and Sheds for some holiday shopping. Known simply as The Market, it was established in 1790, stretches four blocks behind 188 Meeting Street, and features open-air vendors and some permanent stores. In 1973, the Greek Revival-style building, Market Hall, was designated a National Historic Landmark and it and the accompanying sheds are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Ask someone in The Market to show you how to make a Magnolia wreath for your Prevost. If you really get into the spirit of Charleston holidays, you’ll have one made for every window. Then stop-in for a bite at one of several restaurants at The Market.
If you haven’t dined in Charleston before, ask for local favorites that surely make the holiday supper table in homes around town. Try She-crab soup, Frogmore Stew and Huguenot Torte. And don’t forget Hoppin’ John, Charleston’s version of beans and rice made of black-eyed peas and rice with chopped onion and sliced bacon. Use the recipe on New Year’s Eve, when eating Hoppin’ John is thought to bring good luck and a prosperous year. Leave three peas on your plate to assure Luck, Fortune and Romance in the New Year. Then, eat Hoppin’ John leftovers the day after New Year’s, when it’s called “Skippin’ Jenny” and demonstrates frugality and an even better chance of prosperity in the New Year.
After a pleasant meal, enjoy any of the numerous shows and events about town, including.
- Holiday Show with the Charleston Barbershop Chorus and the Sweet Adeline sisters
- Wine Under The Oaks at Boone Hall
- 26th Annual Progressive Dinner (journey by carriage to three different dining locations)
- The Sound of Charleston…Special Holiday Edition (from gospel to Gershwin)
- Christmas 1860 (Relive the Eve of Civil War and celebrate the holiday season with candlelight tour at the Edmondston-Alston House)
- The Charleston Christmas Special (contemporary Christmas songs and hilarious yuletide comedy)
- Charleston Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker (a holiday classic for more than three decades)
- Holiday Storybook Tea with Mrs. Claus (don’t forget to bring your Christmas wish-list!)
- Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker (the beloved Christmas story of the girl who falls in love with a Nutcracker Prince - with Russian flair)
This video helps to capture the spirit and charm of the city, as the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus performs a “Flash Mob” preview of their Holiday Celebration Concert last year. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO3kFno6gB0
The Greatest Show on H2O
The South has its own version of Holiday parades and they often take place on water. From Maryland to South Florida, communities throughout the South celebrate the season with holiday boat parades.
Florida leads the way with more than 50 holiday boat parades, and you can find them listed on Floridabywater.com. The granddaddy of them all is the Winterfest Parade in Fort Lauderdale, or what the locals refer to as The Greatest Show on H2O. Plan to be all-aboard for this year’s 40th Anniversary event.
This epic spectacle starts at 6 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 10, when you’ll be treated to a stunning display of Yuletide yachts, decked in brilliant lights and quirky, fun holiday regalia. Tens of thousands of spectators enjoy more than 200 boats at this annual holiday tradition.
To see it, anchor yourself for free along the Intracoastal, but get there early to secure a spot. Otherwise, buy a grandstand ticket. All seats are reserved and assigned, located inside Birch State Park on the Northeast corner of Sunrise Boulevard and the Intracoastal Waterway. Tickets are available here.
Ring in the New Year...in Savannah?
Our last stop on our Southern Holiday adventure takes us to Savannah, Georgia ,to ring in the New Year.
And outside of the area, who would ever think of Savannah and New Year’s? Well, these Southern Georgians know how to throw a holiday bash. On New Year’s Eve, locals gather for City Market’s annual outdoor street party, where live music starts at 9 p.m. and is followed by a fireworks display shot off the pier on neighboring Tybee Island. We suggest booking a cruise on a traditional stern wheel riverboat for dinner, Champagne toasts and the best fireworks views.
Then on January 1, spend the noon hour watching participants with titles from Shrimp to Moby Dick (depending on how many years they've taken part) brave chilly river waters during the Polar Plunge.
Big Easy Mardi Gras
If you’re not completely holiday’d-out, then head over to The Big Easy to get ready for Mardi Gras. For now, we’ll save that for another adventure.