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Arts Planner: No Christmas tree, but maybe a pineapple

A decorated mantel at the Hampton-Preston Mansion.
A decorated mantel at the Hampton-Preston Mansion. Provided photo

Historic Columbia Foundation Candlelight Tours

You won’t find a Christmas tree in the halls of the Robert Mills House this holiday season.

The house’s historically accurate decorations call for greenery and polished silver, but Christmas trees didn’t appear in Columbia until at least the 1840s, according to Historic Columbia Foundation director of education James Quint.

Robert Mills House and Hampton-Preston Mansion will be open for the foundation’s annual Candlelight Tours Friday.

For those who can’t imagine Christmas without a well-fluffed conifer, the Hampton-Preston Mansion, in which period rooms date to the early 20th century, will have a tree. Decorated trees were more common in America after Franklin Pierce decorated the first Christmas tree on the White House lawn in 1853; Benjamin Harrison brought a tree inside the White House in 1889.

Also common: pineapples.

“Pineapples were a sign of welcomeness,” Quint said. Stories abound as to why this was so, but one legend has it that pineapples as a symbol for hospitality started in colonial New England with sea captains, who would return from sea bearing fruits, spices and rum. Once home, a captain would put a pineapple outside signifying his safe return and an invitation for friends to visit and hear tales of his voyage.

Creative fruit displays featuring the exotic fruit were also a sign of a host’s status at holiday parties, Quint said.

In addition to walking through the houses by candlelight and hearing guides’ stories of Columbia holidays past, there also will be live music and children’s activities Friday.

Guitarist Tim Ryan will perform in the Hampton-Preston Mansion, Lauren Watkins will play the flute in the Robert Mills House and the Ladies of the Pickin’ Parlor will be strolling and strumming on the grounds outside.

“You’ll be able to experience what it would have been like for an evening in those houses for the season,” Quint said. “It’s a special thing being able to go through it by candlelight. You lose track of time.”

And, if we’re being honest about time, Christmas wasn’t a huge holiday in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

“New Year’s was what Americans were focusing on then,” Quint said. (Don’t tell Santa.)

Historic Columbia’s Candlelight Tours begin at 6 p.m. Friday. The last tour starts at 8:45 p.m. Free for HC members, $12 for adults and $8 for youth. www.historiccolumbia.org

Christmas Concerts

Get in the Christmas spirit with these performances of holiday tunes and classics:

The Camden Community Concert Band Christmas Concert. 3 p.m. Sunday at Camden High School Auditorium, 1022 Ehrenclou Drive, Camden. Free. www.camdencommunityband.org/

The Chamber Choir of Kershaw County Christmas Concert. 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Wood Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County, 810 Lyttleton St., Camden. $5. (803) 425-7676. www.fineartscenter.org

For Christmas music with a twist, head to The Getty’s Irish Christmas Tour. Keith and Kristyn Getty, a traditional Irish music duo, will be joined by 14-time Grammy Award-winner and bluegrass master Ricky Skaggs. 7:30 p.m. Friday at Township Auditorium, 1703 Taylor St. $25-$50. (803) 576-2350 or visit www.thetownship.org

‘A Twisted Carol: A Jukebox Musical’

Set at Christmastime, “Twisted Carol” intertwines traditional Dickens characters and some fun new ones.

2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at On Stage Productions, 680 Cherokee Lane in West Columbia. $19 for adults, with discounts available for seniors, military, and youth. (803) 351-6751, www.onstagesc.com

‘From Heart to Canvas’

Bianca Chardei, a Columbia native and former “America’s Next Top Model” contestant (formerly Bianca Richardson), is holding an art exhibition and fundraiser at Benedict College. “From Heart to Canvas” features abstract artwork by participants in Chardei’s nonprofit organization, Love Yourself girls.

Saturday at the Ponder Gallery at Benedict College, 1600 Harden St. $5 suggested donation. (424) 262-2289, www.biancachardei.com/

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