If you’re among those who feel that Christmas has gotten too commercial, or if you just love the idea of an old-fashioned Christmas, you can take a step back in time on Friday with Historic Columbia Foundation’s annual candlelight tour of homes. Beginning at 6 p.m., you’ll be able to explore the Robert Mills House, Hampton-Preston Mansion and Mann-Simons Site as they would have been decorated during three distinct periods in history.
Set to capture a typical Southern home during Christmas in 1823, Robert Mills House will be filled with garland, candied fruit and, oddly, feathers. “Christmas trees hadn’t been introduced yet, so there’s no tree, but the period ornaments we’ve put up are gorgeous,” says Historic Columbia’s Carrie Phillips. “Actually, during that time, New Year’s Eve was a bigger celebration than Christmas.”
The Hampton-Preston Mansion will represent Christmas circa 1864, when trees were lit with actual candles and Civil War-era children worried that Santa wouldn’t be able to make it through the blockade and into their chimneys.
At Mann-Simons Site, Christmas decorations will have been manufactured instead of handmade; most ordered from a catalog like Sears. “Purchasing items through a catalog allowed African Americans during this time to circumvent the Jim Crow laws,” says Phillips.
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Horse-drawn carriage rides will also be available on Friday; on Saturday, Historic Columbia is holding breakfast with a Victorian Santa, who wears green instead of red. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If the carriage rides are sold out, consider stopping by; there may be a few no-shows. Candlelight Tours are free for HC members, $12 for adults and $8 for youth. Reservations are not required; the last tour starts at 9 p.m.
Katie McElveen, Special to The State