Residents celebrate Christmas past and present at Historic Columbia’s breakfast with Santa

ccope@thestate.comDecember 21, 2013 

  • Christmas in 1863

    The making of a Victorian Christmas

    • Santa Claus was already popular, and Southern children were reassured that he would be able to sneak through the Union troops’ blockade to deliver gifts.

    • Holiday presents were often handmade and practical, but they could have been bought during travel.

    • Although slaves that worked on plantations in the field would have been given time off, those that worked in the house were still required to serve the family on Christmas.

    • Many of today’s desserts go back as far as the 18th century, including ice cream, coconut cake, sponge cake and many types of cookies.

    • Poinsettias were first introduced to the United States by South Carolinian Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

    • During the latter part of the Civil War, it was popular to decorate Christmas trees with Confederate flags in the South and Union flags in the North.

    Historic Columbia

— Santa Claus wore green on Saturday.

Instead of the red suit that most identify with the Christmas icon, a Victorian-era Santa donned in a green cloak at the grounds and gardens of the Robert Mills House for Historic Columbia’s Breakfast with Santa event.

A Santa in the Victorian time period would have been more like a Father Christmas elfish figure, said Cait Costello, Historic Columbia’s director of marketing.

Karl Pfaehler of West Columbia, who played the role of Santa for the first time Saturday, said the different color suit threw a few kids off – they weren’t quite sure who he was.

But 5-year-old Taylor Bolling recognized Santa. And her Elf-on-the-Shelf named Cupcake, who she said was hanging upside down from the ceiling on Friday, has been reporting back to the big guy.

Apparently, the elf has been saying good things because when asked if she is on the nice list, Taylor gave an emphatic, “Yes!”

At the nearby Hampton-Preston Mansion, families learned what Christmas would have been like during the Civil War. Decorations were minimal as a reflection that most efforts would have gone toward the war.

Sean Stucker works as the director of facilities and maintains the old buildings at the grounds. He visited the mansions with his mother and sister when the siblings were young.

About 25 years later, he brought his two daughters to the grounds on Saturday.

“Case in point of why we preserve these things – for the next generation and the next,” Stucker said.

His 4-year-old daughter Lilah had visited Santa with her 2-year-old sister Sylvie just before touring the Hampton-Preston Mansion.

“Lilah was very curious where Rudolph was,” said her mom, Jessica Stucker.

Santa told her he was in the barn resting for Christmas. She also wanted to know if girl elves existed. Santa told her that they did and that Mrs. Claus was in charge of them.

The children got to see Christmas decorations and traditions of times past.

In the parlor of the Hampton-Preston Mansion, a Christmas tree rested on a table with real, but unlit candles to demonstrate how actual candles would have been used on trees at the time.

A bucket stood nearby that would have held water as a safety precaution. Stockings rested on a chair, and toys beneath the tree included a wooden horse and old doll.

Reach Cope at 803-771-8657 or on Twitter @cassielcope.

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