Hand made Christmas theme decorated cookies

You might think that a place as relatively young as Hilton Head Island wouldn’t have a lot of Christmas traditions. After all, while people have been calling the island home for centuries, it’s really only been a town for about 40 years. That’s not a lot of time to establish a tradition, especially one that only comes once a year.

However, once the mercury dips and the holiday season approaches, you’d be amazed how many unique Christmas celebrations you’ll find here. The grand light display at Shelter Cove began as a spiritual successor to the famed Dove Street lights, a winter wonderland that popped up along North Forest Beach every year for decades. Across the street at Coligny Plaza, the Christmas celebrations still recall the time Santa showed up in a helicopter. 

Then there are the traditions of the native islanders, huge multi-generational family get togethers that always end with a round of “visiting.” Traveling to every house in the family for a brief while, these visits see family bonds strengthened over food and drink. 

There are already many traditions in this young island town, but this year might just see the arrival of a new favorite. From noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 10 at USCB’s Hilton Head campus, the Heritage Library will present its first-ever Historic Holidays on Hilton Head event.

Celebrating the season with local artists and authors, this event will include shopping and afternoon tea, so you can sip and stroll through an array of vendors. In between, you can catch breakout sessions with local authors and appearances from historic figures including General Ormsby Mitchel, Francis Gage and Clara Barton (played by Rich Thomas, Kathy Smith and Rosemary Staples, respectively).

“We were looking for a way to celebrate the season while giving people a deeper appreciation for the culture and history of Hilton Head,” said Heritage Library Executive Director Barbara Catenaci. “After the success of our Afternoon Tea events at Heritage Library, we saw the perfect opportunity to create a new holiday tradition for the island.”

Historic Holidays tickets are $15 for admission, $35 for admission and afternoon tea, with children 12 and under getting in free. Register at heritagelib.org. 

Lowcountry resident Barry Kaufman is a freelance writer.