Charleston at Christmas: Traditions We Love at Charleston Carriage Works

Best Wishes For the Holidays From Our Carriage Barn

At Charleston Carriage Works, we hear so many reasons why our guests adore a traditional Christmas in Charleston, beginning with the city’s best horse drawn carriage ride. But, there’s lots more, so we’ve made this list of local highlights for the holidays.

Whether you’re here to join us at our home, or celebrating at your own home, we send best wishes for the festive season from Charleston Carriage Works.

This December, as we clip clop through the Holy City in our horse drawn carriages, guests cannot help but notice the bright red and creamy white poinsettias flanking the porticos of many of our antebellum mansions. We love sharing the little-known fact that the traditional holiday flower was first imported from Mexico to America in 1829 by a Charlestonian named Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett. Did you know that National Poinsettia Day is celebrated on December 12 every year?

Here are a few more of our favorite things about Charleston at Christmas.

Charleston Festival of Lights

Charleston Festival of Lights

Charleston’s 26th Annual Festival of Lights runs through New Year’s Day 2016 at James Island County Park, where two million twinkling lights contribute to the event. Dancing fountain illuminations, enchanted walking trails, an old-fashioned carousel, Santa’s workshop and a marshmallow and s’mores roast are some of the family-friendly happenings each evening. Have your photo taken with Santa Claus and see fireworks light up the sky at 9 p.m. at one of America’s top Christmas attractions.

Charleston Dining and Decorations

Charleston Christmas

Charleston’s restaurants have decked the halls and hung the mistletoe. Some of the most attractively decorated dining rooms in the Holy City include several of Charleston’s top-rated restaurants. Enjoy a festive setting and a well-set table at Middleton Place, Charleston Grill, Peninsula Grill, Caviar & Bananas and Slightly North of Broad. Thanks to the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau for scouting out the beautiful holiday décor.

Charleston City Market Shopping

Charleston City Market

Of course, shopping and the holidays go together like a horse and carriage. But, since 1807, there’s only one Charleston City Market, the city’s top visitor attraction. Called “one of the most vibrant and historic places in all of the South,” the market is extra special at this festive time of year. There’s even a Night Market on Friday and Saturday with free live music. Take home sweetgrass baskets, wooden wind chimes, and the signature Charleston cookies, benne wafers. To find one-of-a-kind items, look for the Certified Authentic Handmade in Charleston seal and chat with the knowledgeable vendors and makers. Historic Charleston City Market is only a 3-minute walk from our carriage barn.

Lowcountry Edible Traditions

Charleston She Crab Soup

This is a beautiful old city with traditions passed down through generations, many of them revolving around food. You can try some yourself. We recommend delicious She Crab Soup, a seafood bisque that’s sometimes called Charleston’s signature dish. A century ago, President William Howard Taft fell for it in a big way while visiting Charleston, and it’s been featured on Christmas menus ever since. Don’t forget a dash of dry sherry just prior to serving.

Having a large gathering to celebrate the season? Raise a glass to Charleston at the holidays by serving the traditional St. Cecilia Punch for any occasion. It’s a century-old tradition from early 20th century society debutante balls.

Historic St. Cecilia Punch Recipe

St. Ceceilia Punch


6 lemons

1 quart brandy

1 pineapple

1-1/2 pounds of sugar

1 quart green tea

1 pint heavy rum

1 quart peach brandy

4 quarts champagne

2 quarts carbonated water


Slice lemons thin and cover with brandy. Allow to steep for 24 hours. Several hours before ready to serve, slice the pineapple into the bowl with the lemon slices, then add the sugar, tea, rum, and peach brandy. Stir well. When ready to serve, add the champagne and water. Makes 80 servings. Cheers!

If you’re heading to Charleston for the holidays, our guides and our gorgeous Draft Horses look forward to seeing you onboard a Charleston Carriage Works tour. Book in advance, as tickets can sell out fast!

*Recipe courtesy of Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau