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  • Writer's pictureNancy Rogers

'Vistation Day

During plantation times and throughout the 19th century, stocking weren’t traditionally hung on mantlepieces. Children looped their stockings over the bedposts at the foot of their beds. Wealthy children like Sarah’s would have received gifts such as French bisque dolls and rocking horses, three-masted sailing ships and doll houses. It was also commonplace for children to receive their own child-sized cart pulled by a goat or pony. There are a number of vintage photographs of children and their carts.

Christmas on the plantation was more about children than adults, although adults were known to exchange small intimate gifts such as handkerchiefs and small books. Christmas was more about parties and celebrating with loved ones.

Although the majority of modern-day Christmas carols were written during the mid-1800s, Sarah Vaux and her family might have heard early versions of: "Good Christian Men, Rejoice", "Resonet in Laudibus", "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful", "Good King Wenceslas" and the German version of "Silent Night," still the most popular Christmas carol of all time.

The day after Christmas was reserved for the People. “‘Vistation Day,” it was called, a day when the People were allowed to leave the plantation to visit loved ones living on other plantations. It also was an extremely common day for marriages among the People. In the Lowcountry, it was customary for the plantation owners to attend the wedding service and to provide a wedding feast. It is known that at True Blue, the owners provided the wedding couple with housing of their own and the bedding, cookware and furniture necessary to set up their home.

There is a most amazing book entitled: A Plantation Christmas: A Christmas Classic by Julia Peterkin, a native of Lauren, SC, who was born in 1880 and died in 1961. She was and still is legend in South Carolina for authoring six wonderful books about 19th century South Carolina, including most people’s favorite, Scarlet Sister Mary.

A Plantation Christmas is a 32-page little paperback book that was first published in 1934. I have a reprinted copy published by the Larlin Corporation in Marietta, Georgia in 1987. The reprint is currently available on Amazon for around $20. A hard copy goes for $175. Wow! Who knew.

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