Summerville Christmases and Winter Solstices Connected by History


Dear Reader:

Today is the Winter Solstice…the day when darkness prevails… culminating in this meteorological phenomenon  ‘dubbed’ nowadays as the ‘shortest day’ of the year. Man, in ancient times, understood this annual occurrence but feared the day because of the extended darkness. Many believed that darkness and evil ran rampart on this day each year.

Some ancient societies even held sacrifices or observed sacred rituals to keep evil spirits away and protect families…most of whom stayed inside (communally) until this day had passed.

In modern times, however, most of these superstitions have vanished and new positive spins or perspectives have emerged celebrating this day as the benchmark that ends the last day of darkness and marks the beginning of light and life that will grow in length and intensity from the Winter Solstice forward.

The length of light is extended approximately 2 minutes a day for the first few days following Winter Solstice. So think about it…by Christmas Eve we have all accumulated a wonderful gift from Mother Nature (TIME)…six more minutes of light. Now the question is…how do we use this special gift Christmas Eve. (*Stay tuned to my Christmas Eve story to find out what one woman did each Christmas Eve! 🙂 )

Last week Summerville, on December 17,  celebrated its 172nd birthday (1847) when our little hamlet became incorporated officially as a town. Looking back on our  history…this was probably the most exciting Christmas of all for Summerville.

Our town historian, Barbara Hill, tells us the true story of this special Christmas town and community celebration year.

Our town, once again, just celebrated our natal day, Dec. 17, 1847. It was 172 years ago, that Summerville was born — as an official town, though it had been settled some half century before.

The incorporation process began five months earlier as village leaders feared that their rich pine forest was being depleted by mass construction, not only of new homes for the growing population, but by the burgeoning railroad system which began during the previous decade.

Summerville was settled because of her pines. Thick pine forests like ours then, grew in our sandy soil which drained well, thus no standing water and thus no malaria.

And thus plantation owners and others living in low lands near the water (Charleston and the barrier islands) came to “maroon” here during the sickly season, the malaria season from May to October, and the settlement, then the village, quite naturally became known as Summerville and their homes referred to as ‘summer homes.’

Village residents were hoping for the incorporation to be their community Christmas present that year! Santa came through…they just made it in time!  News arrived by telegraph on the last day of the last session of the South Carolina legislature, as official papers were ratified, and Christmas preparations were stepped up for the holiday celebration.

According to our official history book, “Summerville,” backyard kitchen buildings began heating up early in the month for the baking of fruit cakes and ginger cookies. Women checked their stores of wine, gathered the best cream and chose the best receipt for making syllabub for toasts on the 25th. They also garnered fresh pine, cedar and magnolia branches for home decorations.

The men hunted wild turkeys to star as Christmas dinner entrees and children anxiously awaited going into the woods to pick the perfect tree. Many were pine, but lots of others were holly as these already came decorated with red berries. They didn’t go up until Christmas Eve and were decorated with handmade ornaments like paper chains and strings of popcorn and berries.

What a celebration that first Christmas (as an “official” town) must have been. As I rode by the entrance to the Pine Forest Inn, decorated with wreaths, yesterday… my imagination ran wild wondering how this magnificent inn must have looked…all decorated and celebrated at Christmas too.

*I feel sure it would have made the cover of Southern Living …but as hard as I looked…I couldn’t find any Christmas photos of the inn…especially from the turn of the century until the twenties.

Here are some antique postcards, however, of the Pine Forest Inn from the past…it will give you a sneak peak into the glory of ‘The Grand Ole’ Dame.’

…And now Summerville is once again gearing up for Christmas …Hutchinson Square is filled with fairy lights and community Christmas trees!

So until tomorrow…Don’t forget today is not only the Winter Solstice..but the day of hope when light begins to accumulate and spread slowly but steadily over the land and our lives…what a wonderful Christmas gift! Let’s use it wisely!

Christmas arrived yesterday for me…The Lowcountry Apple Tree centerpiece is up ….thanks to Honey’s annual tradition. She brought greenery to add some flair around ‘The Happy Room” And some unique ornaments for the tree!

A ‘Sammy the Cardinal” ornament made from a gourd and an orange “Clemson” angel now hangs from the tree…what special novelties!  Thank you dear Honey!



***I spent yesterday morning delivering some gifts…and took a picture at Steve and Lassie’s house of their grapevine Christmas tree…I absolutely adore that indigenous idea for a tree.


“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

*Yesterday marked my one year anniversary with “Surcie” (my much adored and beloved “new” car.)

*I can still remember my excitement driving it off the parking lot…after months with no car ( The “Green Vue” was stolen-twice… remember?) complicated by a foot surgery gone array that kept me off my foot & also from driving.

I was beyond excited in the picture above… feeling like a kid on Christmas morning. A ‘thank you’ to Surcie for a year of perfect performance…and oh how I love those heated seats…especially this week!


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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4 Responses to Summerville Christmases and Winter Solstices Connected by History

  1. Rachel Edwards says:

    All is well…All is Well…thank goodness you are better this year and can get around…a true blessing…love the history of the town’s celebration of becoming Summerville. Thanks for sharing. We saw Honey and Mike last night for a few minutes at Oscar’s…that was a treat. Love her table decoration. Have a great day.


    • Becky Dingle says:

      Honey introduced me to the history behind the Apple Tree centerpiece years ago…Mike made the foundation/holder for me and the rest is history…it has become a friendship tradition…dating way back in southern symbolic Christmas rituals. .


  2. Jo Dufford says:

    Good morning, Becky. Brr! it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Loved, loved, loved this post today. I love the two ladies pictured here today; I love history and the pictures of the Pine Forest Inn; I absolutely love everything about Christmas; and I’m most grateful for and love God for sending His Son for our salvation. Maybe the word love should only be used with people, but somehow I, being limited in vocabulary, find it a better word to express a strong preference for something or enjoy something. Maybe i could have said, ” I took great pleasure in reading your post today or looking at the picture.”, just doesn’t quite express how passionate I feel, particularly at this time of year.


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