The end-of-the-year holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving and ending with New Year’s Eve, has its unavoidable impact on one’s spirit and calendar.

Many find plenty of occasions to rejoice. They gather with friends and family, eat good food, take their vacations and welcome new experiences. Others find it to be a period of stress or struggle. They must work even harder than usual, or cope with loneliness, empty bank accounts or various limitations.

The holidays can enhance one’s hunger for adventure or set in relief one’s distress. One thing remains a constant, though, especially in an arts town like Charleston: There is plenty to see and do, some of it costly, some of it free, some of it world class, some of it community-oriented.

A concert or play can distract us from regular toils; an art exhibit or ballet might prompt us to see things a little differently.

In any case, the arts deliver opportunities to rethink our circumstances and to take some pleasure in the riches of our community.

Here we highlight a few of the season’s most promising events. We also encourage readers to check out the comprehensive holiday arts calendars online at

Holiday happenings: Some highlights

Creche Festival

The monks at Mepkin Abbey don’t like to boast about their remarkable creche collection, so we’ll do it for them.

Each year, the Cistercians haul out 100 or so nativity scenes, made by artists from all over the world, and put the objects on display at the monastery.

The creches are large and small, traditional and modern, and made of all sorts of materials. They are set in the library decorated with Christmas greenery. It is certain that visitors will be charmed and surprised by the creativity on display. The monastery is at 1098 Mepkin Abbey Road in Cordesville, near Moncks Corner. Call 761-8509 or visit for more information. Reservations are required and donations are encouraged. The Creche Festival runs through Dec. 7.

Chanukah in the Square

Marion Square fills each year with the smell of frying latkes as people gather to acknowledge the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

It’s a festive occasion that includes plenty of noshing and kibbitzing, thanks to the hot food, live music and dancing.

The event, now in its ninth year, is organized by the Yaschik/Arnold Jewish Studies Program at the College of Charleston along with the city of Charleston’s Office of Cultural Affairs, Chabad of the Lowcountry and other community organizations.

Local Holocaust survivors light the Hanukkah candles, and Mayor Joe Riley will offer a few remarks. Chanukah in the Square is the largest annual Jewish event in South Carolina, and a wonderful, family-friendly way to end Thanksgiving weekend. It’s free and scheduled for 4-6 p.m. Dec. 1.

Choirs a-singing

On Dec. 2, the College of Charleston Concert Choir sings sacred and traditional holiday music with some classic winter poems and stories thrown in for good measure.

The Concert Choir makes a glorious noise under the direction of Robert Taylor. If you are unfamiliar with its work, this is a good chance to let its collective voice wash over your soul. The concert is at 8 p.m. in the Simons Center Recital Hall, 54 St. Philip St., and costs $10 a ticket.

On Dec. 3, you have a chance to hear the Charleston Southern University Concert Singers perform Christmas selections in a performance scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the Science Building, 9200 University Drive, North Charleston. Tickets are $5 each.

Christmas burlesque

South of Broadway Theatre Company, a Park Circle mainstay, is offering a nostalgic production called “Santa’s Naughty and Nice Burlesque.” It’s a musical throwback to those Hollywood Christmas specials of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.

The show runs (at various start times) from Dec. 5-21. Tickets are $25. Check out or call 633-1263 for more information.

A different sort of burlesque will be presented by The Flowertown Players in Summerville. “Plaid Tidings” features otherworldly elves performing Christmas carols with a twist of cultural satire. That show runs Dec. 6-22 at the theater located at 133 Main St. Tickets are $25.

Visit or call 875-9251 for more information.

Brass and Gospel

The Charleston Symphony Orchestra Brass Quintet and Percussion will play holiday classics at four concerts staged in four area churches. This is what’s meant by “bringing music to the community.”

The first program is 7 p.m. Dec. 5 at St. Andrew’s Church, 440 Whilden St., Mount Pleasant; the second is 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at Providence Baptist Church, 294 Seven Farms Drive, Daniel Island; the third is 3 p.m. Dec. 8 at Palmetto Presbyterian Church, 1720 Carolina Park Boulevard, Mount Pleasant; and the fourth is 4 p.m. Dec. 15 at First (Scots) Presbyterian Church, 53 Meeting St.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students.

If you prefer your hot air blown not through brass instruments but straight from the source, try a Gospel Christmas with the CSO Gospel Choir and Spiritual Ensemble, joined by musical guests.

The concert is 7 p.m. Dec. 7 at Ashley River Baptist Church, 1101 Savannah Highway and costs $30.

Nativity play, hoedown

Or perhaps you’re the sort who likes to hark back to medieval times. If so, consider Ashley Hall’s Christmas play based on old Nativity cycles.

The students will perform it at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul, 126 Coming St. It’s free.

On Dec. 12, instead, is something decidedly not medieval: a Holiday Hoedown at Wannamaker County Park in North Charleston.

The dancing begins at 6 p.m., and the event is designed for people with special needs and their families and friends. It costs $5.

Celtic Christmas

The always excellent Taylor Festival Choir, joined by the youthful fiddle group Na Fidleiri, will present a program of Irish holiday music, with storytelling, poetry and more at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at Grace Episcopal Church, 98 Wentworth St.

Tickets are $10-$30 and available in advance at

There is much more to see and do, of course. Go to for full calendar listings of holiday events.