A Lowcountry Christmas

Festive events to help get you into the holiday spirit

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, the Lowcountry is not the place to be. But if you’re hoping for a season filled with fun holiday activities, you’re in the right spot.

Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Beaufort and the surrounding areas have an excellent lineup of festivities planned for 2016. And in addition to all the light displays and holiday performances, dozens of churches and synagogues will be offering Christmas and Hanukkah services.        

A Lowcountry Christmas3Among the more well-known annual holiday events in the Lowcountry are the Dove Street Festival of Lights, the Bluffton Christmas Parade, the Hilton Head Prep Festival of Trees and Main Street Beaufort’s Holiday Celebration Weekend.

A tradition that began more than 20 years ago by Dove Street residents, the Dove Street Festival of Lights began on the street in the North Forest Beach area of Hilton Head and has grown to a holiday must-do for many in the Lowcountry and a fundraiser for local nonprofit organizations.

Betsy Doughtie, longtime Hilton Head resident and executive director of The Deep Well Project, said Dove Street residents put up lights one year to celebrate the birth of a baby in the neighborhood. Passersby discovered the lights and were in awe. Soon more people came to see the lights, and the display grew.

People started offering the residents money to help pay their electric bills, but the residents didn’t want the money. Instead, they decided to give any donations they received to Deep Well.

After years of putting up the lights on Dove Street, residents decided to call it quits. Four years later, the festival returned, but to a different site: Shelter Cove Towne Centre on Hilton Head.

“It was just totally magical,” Doughtie said. “And they certainly have re-created a lot of that at Shelter Cove, and it’s just nice to keep that tradition going.”

This year’s event will go beyond lights to include live entertainment, musical performances, a visit from Santa and even a skating rink.

The Deep Well Project will have a well set up where people can donate food and toys for less fortunate families in the area. Volunteers with the Disaster Relief & Recovery Fund, Programs for Exceptional People and the Hilton Head Island Recreation Association also will be on site accepting cash and canned food donations.

Over the past 20-plus years, the festival has raised more than $120,000 in cash for local nonprofit organizations, more than 40,000 cans of food for needy families, and 20,000 gifts for children, according to the Shelter Cove Towne Centre website.

A Lowcountry Christmas3Another tradition on Hilton Head is the Hilton Head Choral Society’s Sounds of Christmas Concert: “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” From traditional Christmas carols to the iconic tunes of Bing Crosby, the Dec. 9 concert at First Presbyterian Church is sure to make even the grumpiest of Scrooges jolly. Audience members are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys, which will be donated to needy children in the community.

Just over the bridge in Bluffton is another popular holiday event: the town of Bluffton Christmas Parade, to be held this year on Dec. 3. Bring a chair or blanket and an empty bag so the kids can collect some candy.

And if you’re on the other side of the Broad River, check out Main Street Beaufort’s Holiday Celebration Weekend. The weekend will kick off with A Night on the Town from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 2. A Holiday Festival and Light Up the Night Boat Parade are planned for Dec. 3, followed by the Christmas Parade the afternoon of Dec. 4. 

And while you’re in Beaufort, make sure to get tickets to “Gullah Kinfolk Christmas Wish ... Freedom Coming,” a popular musical with Aunt Pearlie Sue and the Gullah Kinfolk. This year’s show will run Dec. 2 at the University of South Carolina Beaufort’s Center for the Arts. The annual musical tells the story of African slaves in Beaufort during the last Christmas before the Civil War began.

Anita Singleton-Prather of Beaufort plays Aunt Pearlie Sue. She said Christmas is a time for healing.

“Whether you call it Christmas or the holiday season or Hanukkah, it’s a show that brings healing,” Singleton-Prather said. “It’s a show that celebrates our shared history. It’s a kickoff to the holiday season. It’s become a holiday tradition for a lot of people.”

Singleton-Prather said people come from all over — even Canada and England — to see the musical and to enjoy the beautiful Lowcountry.

Doughtie, who moved to Hilton Head from Chicago 46 years ago, said she’s come to love Christmas in the Lowcountry. “When I first moved here, I thought, ‘Oh, I can’t stand 70 degrees on Christmas day. I want the snow and ice.’ Well, I got over that really fast. Christmas is Christmas wherever you are.”

A Lowcountry Christmas2



  • Dove Street Festival of Lights: 6-10 p.m. through Dec. 31, Shelter Cove Towne Centre.$10 for 90-minute skating session for adults, $6 for children younger than 6, includes skate rental. The rink is open from 7-8:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, and 2-3:30 p.m., 5-6:30 p.m. and 7-8:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Teens-only session for ages 13-18 are $12 and held from 9-10:30 p.m. Fridays. www.sheltercovetownecentre.com.
  • Hilton Head Preparatory School’s Festival of Trees: through Dec. 2, Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island, 843-8671-2286.
  • Gingerbread House Decorating Party: 10 a.m.-noon Dec. 3, First Presbyterian Church, www.fpchhi.org.
  • Main Street Village’s annual Holiday Open House Jingle Fest: 5-8 p.m. Dec. 3, Main Street Village. Bring a food donation to Lettrs for The Deep Well Project and get a $10 gift certificate. 678-424-1325.
  • Chanukah Bazaar and youth group fundraiser: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Dec. 4, Congregation Beth Yam, www.bethyam.org.
  • World premiere of “International Carol Suite” by Mark Hayes: 3 p.m. Dec. 4, First Presbyterian Church, www.fpchhi.org.
  • Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; check calendar for Sunday show times, Dec. 7-31, Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, www.artshhi.com.
  • Hilton Head Choral Society’s Sounds of Christmas Concert: “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”: 8-10 p.m. Dec. 9, First Presbyterian Church, www.hiltonheadchoralsociety.org.
  • Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Pops!: 4-6 p.m. Dec. 11, First Presbyterian Church.
  • Outdoor Movie: "A Christmas Story": 7-9 p.m. Dec. 17, under the Liberty Oak in Harbour Town, 843-842-1979.
  • St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church’s Christmas Eve under the Stars: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 24, Buckwalter Place, www.hhiumc.com.
  • Holiday Fun in Harbour Town: 4-8 p.m. Dec. 26, near Liberty Oak in Harbour Town, 843-842-1979.
  • Wreaths Across America: Noon. Dec. 17, Six Oaks Cemetery, SixOaksCemetary.com


  • A Holiday Fantasia! Performance by Sun City Chorus and Concert Band: 7 p.m. Dec. 1-3 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 4, Magnolia Hall, Sun City, 843-368-3153.

    A Lowcountry Christmas3

  • Town of Bluffton Christmas Parade: 10 a.m. Dec. 3, www.townofbluffton.sc.gov.
  • Cookies with Santa: 2-4 pm Dec. 4, Moonlit Lullaby, 843-837-6666.
  • Christmas Cantata: Go Sing it on the Mountain: 8:30-11 a.m. Dec. 11, Church of the Palms, 843-379-1888.
  • Christmas Festival: 6-9 p.m. Dec. 16, Cornerstone Church Bluffton, dinner available for $5 a person or $20 a family, 843-757-3472.
  • Bluffton Police Department’s annual Christmas Toy Drive: through Dec. 16, Bluffton Police Department Law Enforcement Center, 101 Progressive St., or Bluffton Town Hall, 20 Bridge St. Drop off unwrapped toys, jackets, hats and gloves for children ages 0-14; toiletry items and wrapping paper also needed.


  • Festival of Trees to benefit Friends of Caroline Hospice: 6-9 p.m. Dec. 1, Tabby Place, 809 Port Republic St., www.friendsofcarolinehospice.org.
  • "Gullah Kinfolk Christmas Wish ... Freedom Coming”: 7 p.m. Dec. 2, with special performances for schools and senior citizen groups at 9:30, 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Dec. 2, University of South Carolina Beaufort’s Center for the Arts, 843-986-1102, ext. 2.
  • Christmas Taste of Gullah, 1-5 p.m. Dec. 3, Tabernacle Baptist Church, 843-986-1102.
  • Main Street Beaufort’s Holiday Celebration Weekend: A Night on the Town, 6-9 p.m. Dec. 2; Holiday Festival, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Dec. 3; Light Up the Night Boat Parade, 5:30-8 p.m. Dec. 3; Christmas Parade, 3 p.m. Dec. 4. 843-525-6644.
  • Christmas with the Celts: 7-9 p.m. Dec. 6, University of South Carolina Beaufort’s Center for the Arts, $30 for adults, $25 for seniors and military, and $15 for students, www.uscbcenterforthearts.com.
  • Friends of Shanklin Light Up the Night: 6-9 p.m. Dec. 9, Habersham Marketplace, 843-846-3444.
  • Penn Center’s Live Nativity Scene: 6:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 18, Penn Center, St. Helena Island, with vocal performances by a mass church choir, 843-838-2432.
  • “A Holiday Boutique,” local handmade gifts: through Dec. 23. Society of Bluffton Artists’ Center for Creative Arts building, next to SOBA Gallery, 843-757-6586.