Christmas at Hampton Plantation

Dear Reader:

Going back in time…even to the early 2oth century when Archibald Rutledge still brought his family home for Christmases…expectations were kept pretty simple except for food and that special once a year gift. Decorations were made from natural materials indigenous to the area…pine trees became Christmas trees and swags of pine decorated the front verandas and tables. The smell of Christmas in the South is definitely a pine smell.

I can tell from the photo above that the title picture had to be taken after Archibald Rutledge (SC ‘s First Poet Laureate) death. The house has been restored and painted. Even though Rutledge spent the last years of his life trying to keep the old plantation from caving in…painting and other luxuries just weren’t in the budget as seen by this earlier Christmas picture after he returned home.

Rutledge took time to remember the Christmases at Hampton while he lived there in his adolescence and later his retiring years by writing the book Carolina Christmas. His descriptions of a typical Christmas in the early 1900’s is fascinating to me today…a different world but a beautiful one.

The Post and Courier ran an excerpt from his Christmas memories a few years ago and I will share some of these with you today.

…” To see how a typical plantation Christmas in the South is observed you must go with me far through the pine-woods that fringe the South Carolina coast, to one of those old plantations that lie along the Santee River delta. As we drive along the level road, the great forest will withdraw from us on all sides, disclosing magic vistas and mysterious swamp views, or perhaps a still stretch of water retired mistily among the pines.

In every water-course there will be elm and gum-trees, burdened with great bunches of mistletoe; while beside the road, beautiful in their symmetry, their foliage, and their berries lovely holly-trees will invite our fascinated eyes. And probably in the hollies or in the black-gums or tupelos of the swamp, but surely darting swiftly among the tall pines, the light of the sinking sun striking vividly on their scarlet breasts, we shall see a hundred, possibly a thousand, robins, joyous among the delights afforded by the Southern winter.

While we sit in the balmy air on the broad white veranda, listening to the singing as it floats softly through the night, the spirit of Christmas comes very near to us. There among the ancient oaks the wind through the swaying mosses breathes olden runes, while the Christmas stars above the solemn woods hold the promise of eternal light.

“After the children have gone to bed in the great rambling plantation house, we begin arranging the Christmas presents; and these include not only the number for the family, but those for the servants, and the servants’ families, friends, and visitors, and the friends’ and visitors’ friends, and so on. Many will come, and every one will get a present. Then we sit around the fireplace and talk about Christmases past.

A huge fire is lit the next morning… kept going all day by live oak. The first meal of the day is a small breakfast followed by the big Christmas meal which consists of a huge brunch for all.

“A Christmas breakfast on a Southern plantation is one of those leisurely and delightful events that have no definite beginning or ending, but which are aglow throughout with the light and warmth of mirth, fellowship and affection. Perhaps a cup of tea and a roll and marmalade, with a bunch of fresh violets or a rose from the garden on the tray, will be served first, as we gather on the piazza.

Later in the late morning/early afternoon hours there will be an elaborate breakfast in the quaint old dining room, where, by red firelight, and watched intensely by the frieze of deer’s antlers festooned with holly and smilax, we shall pass two happy hours. Among the truly Southern dishes most enjoyed are the roasted rice-fed mallards, the venison sausages, and the crisp, brown corn-breads.

The deer hunt is the climax of Christmas Day for the hunters…but the joke is that hardly anyone ever actually takes down a deer on the Christmas Day Hunt. Still the bragging rights stories begin… about how close they came to getting a deer continues and this charade ends the day with drink, lights foods, and much merriment.

Source: “Plantation Christmas Remembers Another Era” (December 19, 2012 –  Edward M. Gilbreth)

So until tomorrow….Let us all take time from our Christmas busyness to stop and remember Christmases past…they all contributed to our feelings about Christmases present and what we might do to simplify them in order to spend more time with stories than food.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

Jake had his Christmas program at his pre-school Sunday evening and they sure knew who to put right in front of the microphone…Jake was ‘getting down” to “We Three Kings of Orient Are”…even added a little extra clap down session. Wish I knew how to tranfer videos onto blog posts…but it is beyond my technological skills.

I received this creative Christmas card from Kaitlyn and Tommy…it took me a minute to realize this was a photo taken in Dingle, Ireland months ago…  while Kaitlyn added magically a little mistletoe! Perfect!

Holiday Kisses   With love, the Dingles

Since the other Dingle family’s (Walsh and Mollie) flight got cancelled to return back home Sunday due to inclement weather (hopefully they got in last night) it looks like the cousins had more time to play together. And Eloise (left) got to love on her uncle and spend time with her new cousin!

Vickie took me to the Piggly Wiggly grocery store yesterday afternoon to get paper products…lots of them…suddenly I was out of everything and they had the most beautiful hybrid poinsettias…mixed colors within one plant…just lovely.

The snow continued yesterday on Pinnacle Mountain…the waterfalls Mike built for Honey are now completely frozen over…20 + inches continuing as of yesterday morning. Wow!


About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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6 Responses to Christmas at Hampton Plantation

  1. Gin-g Edwards says:

    Loved the picture of Molly and Tommy at the Dingle pub…and Jake singing his heart out…


  2. bcparkison says:

    We have a lot to learn, or relearn, from Christmas past. Why we complicate things today i will never understand.
    The grands school and church programs are always so cute. Of course we grandmas are going to say that. Aren’t they all just perfect little beings.?
    The Geeks finely came…no big deal just a battery off center ,or something like that. I am so thankful…Just couldn’t think about spending money,which I don’t have,on a hefty repare bill..
    I almost regret depending on tec ( pcs and cells)


    • Becky Dingle says:

      Wow…Christmas came early with that escape from a big tech bill! As grandmother always told me “You must be living right!” Like the cartoon Pogo’s famous words “We have met the enemy and it is us.” We humans do more to cause ourselves stress than any other problem we face on earth…there is definitely something wrong with us to keep taking God’s perfection and turning it upside down. Yet Christmas will come in all its perfection…now it is up to us to simplify and adore it remembering the miracle of life on this sacred holiday!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Joanna H King says:

    Love your comments on Hampton Plantation and the joys of a simpler time! That’s what it’s all about!!! Glad to see you’re able to get out some and enjoy…Tommy and Kaitlyn’s card could not be more perfect. It really makes me happy!!!


    • Becky Dingle says:

      So GLAD to hear from you! Are you all settled into your new home now …spending your Christmas there? I thought Tommy and Kaitlyn’s card was adorable too. It, too made me happy! Humans just love to be around happiness…we are like a moth to light. Merry Christmas Joanna…hope you and the girls will have a wonderful Christmas!


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