Discover a few favorite ways to celebrate Bluffton holiday traditions.
We don’t have white Christmases in Bluffton. There are no jingle bells on sleigh rides, no icicles and no bundling of mittens and earmuffs, but we have plenty of cherished holiday traditions!
Hands warmed over roasting oysters, thick slices of Claxton fruitcake, delicate strings of multi-colored lights twining around palmetto trunks—a Lowcountry holiday is bright indeed. Here are a few signature Bluffton holiday traditions that make the season merry Bluffton-style, from handmade shell wreaths to the Bluffton Christmas parade.
Cut Your Own Christmas Tree
Our climate is too warm for the fir and spruce trees typically favored as seasonal decorations. However, native cypress and pines will do just as nicely. A&A Christmas Trees off Highway 170 in Okatie is a family-run farm that offers the experience of selecting and cutting your own tree from rows of carefully trimmed and shaped white pines and Leyland cypresses. They also ship in pre-cut North Carolina Fraser firs for those who want this distinctive fragrance and look. A&A Christmas Trees was started more than 40 years ago by Jerry and Dianne Youngblood when Jerry decided to harvest a few cedars Dianne’s grandmother had planted and then try his luck selling them as Christmas trees.
In 1985, he left the banking industry and went into Christmas tree farming full-time, creating a successful business. He and Dianne recently turned over to their daughter and son-in-law, Anne and Daniel Doe. Jerry still helps out on the farm. He loves seeing customers who came every year with their parents—now returning with children of their own. A&A takes excellent care of their trees. The shipped-in firs, never lack water or shelter from direct sun,
“The Fraser fir is the Cadillac of Christmas trees,” said Jerry. “But even if people get a Fraser, a lot of times they want to go out in the fields and look around. I think they enjoy it more than buying a tree out of a parking lot.”
A&A Christmas Trees, located at 42 Old Cooler Circle in Okatie, opens for the season the day after Thanksgiving and is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., seven days a week. For more information, please call (843) 384-4485 or visit aachristmastrees.com.
Enjoy the Bluffton Christmas Parade
No one knows exactly when it started—sometime during the ‘80s—but by now the Bluffton Christmas Parade is as much a part of Bluffton as the May River or the Nickel Pumpers.
“It’s where you are on the first Saturday of December,” said Joy Nelson, community relations manager for the Bluffton Police Department, and one of the parade’s coordinators. “It’s quirky, it’s unique and there’s not a lot of pomp and circumstance—it just is what it is. You come out and be yourself.”
The parade features nearly 100 entries, from floats and groups to individuals riding in their cars or even on their tractors.
The beauty of it, says Joy, is that anyone can participate, even if they just want to walk along pulling a little red wagon. Schools, churches, realtors, towing companies, motorcycle groups and, naturally, horses are all part of the holiday parade.
Year after year, people look forward to seeing parade fixtures such as the Red Cedar Fox Float and the Parris Island Marine Corps Marching Band.
The Parris Island Marine Corps Marching Band participate in high-profile parades all over the country. But, they still find time for lil’ ol’ Bluffton. Important dignitaries are always invited. Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham have made special appearances. Congressman Mark Sanford returns every year. Grab your lawn chairs and head to Old Town for one of the most beloved of Bluffton holiday traditions.
Fire Up an Oyster Roast
Picture a cheery blaze to warm the cold night air. Festive showers of sparks shoot up toward a canopy of palm fronds silhouetted against the winter stars. Friends and loved ones clutch beverages and belly-laugh merrily.
What could make this scene better? A few bushels of oysters.
Spread them on a heavy metal plate on the fire. Cover them with wet towels. When they’ve just popped open from the steam, dump them over a shucking table. People crowd the table oyster knives and hot sauces to get in on the feast. It’s food, entertainment and climate control all at once. and it’s one of the best of Bluffton holiday traditions. Chances are you will be invited to at least one oyster roast this year, but if not, throw your own!
May River oysters—known for their bright, salty flavor—are available every way you can think of. The Bluffton Oyster Company on Wharf Street offers pre-shucked quarts to bushels of single selects.
Owned and operated by the Toomer Family, this is your go-to for any kind of fresh local seafood. They also cater special events.
For more information about the Bluffton Oyster Company, please call (843) 757-4010 or visit blufftonoyster.com.
By Michele Roldán-Shaw