Christmas traditions in the arts world bring a wealth of favorites, and sometimes you don’t even realize that what you are looking at is art. Here’s a few perennial favorites (other than “The Nutcracker”) that you may want to put on your holiday list.

Church music was once the repository of the world’s greatest music since churches had money to spend on fine organs and compositions. Some of the world’s finest composers created classics, including George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah.” Excerpts are familiar to everyone and the holidays are a great time to learn more about this seminal work.

The Charleston Symphony Orchestra is putting on several performances in the Lowcountry. At 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17, they will perform at the Cathedral St. John the Baptist in downtown Charleston and at 7 p.m. Dec. 20, 2012 at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Summerville. Tickets are $30.

The Charleston Symphony Orchestra’s Gospel Choir and Spiritual Ensemble also are performing at church. They will perform lesser known works with some musical guests at 7 p.m. Saturday at Ashley River Baptist Church on Savannah Highway. Tickets are $30.

The POPS! Orchestra in North Charleston is going to rock the house with popular tunes such as “White Christmas” and “Jingle Bell Rock” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the North Charleston Coliseum. Tickets for that event are $35. It’s more secular, but just as valid as an art form.

Lionel train art

An event that proved very popular last year was the Lionel Toy Train Memories exhibit at Coco Vivo Art for Living, 25 Broad St.

Angela Trotta Thomas is the official artist of Lionel Trains LLC and will exhibit a collection of original oils depicting her nostalgic toy train art.

Or, if you just want to peer in the window at the trains, there will be a Christmas window scene featuring a toy train set traveling through a snowy holiday village. Angela’s powerful images are a mixture of Lionel trains, childhood and the holiday season.

A special invitation is extended to kids of all ages to meet the artist from 5-8 p.m. Friday, at 25 Broad Street in downtown Charleston during a special artist reception. Thomas will be handing out and signing the latest Lionel Christmas catalog and this year, the Lionel toy train will be twice as big as last year’s.

Dickens’ Scrooge

And it wouldn’t be Christmas without a visit from the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

Village Repertory Co. presents “A Christmas Carol” at the Woolfe Street Playhouse starting Friday and running through Dec. 22. This version is special to Charleston because the group only uses Dickens’ words from the classic tale. You won’t find this version showing up on television.

All shows at Woolfe Street Playhouse 34 Woolfe St. Tickets can be purchase at or by phone at 856-1579.

Magnolia Gardens

The top prizes for the Charleston Artist Guild and Magnolia Garden’s art contest “Garden of Dreams” were announced this week.

Wadmalaw Island artist Mark Beale received the top prize of $3,000 purchase award for his painting, “Creekside Dusk.”

The other top awards went to Daniel Island artist Alana Knuff, second place and a $1,000 prize, for “The Pasture: Magnolia Plantation,” and Charleston artist Russell Buskirk received third place and a $500 prize for “The White Bridge.” Buskirk is also the guild’s director of exhibitions.

The competition was inspired by John Drayton Hastie Jr., who wanted to encourage artists to paint scenes of Magnolia’s gardens in the style of Charleston Renaissance artists. Elizabeth O’Neill Verner and William Halsey were among the guild’s founding members six decades ago.

The guild received 178 pieces of art from 108 artists in 11 states during the contest period that ended in September.

Giving and getting

And while you are thinking of garden art, here’s an opportunity for you to take the family to see the garden in winter, one of the best times to see the structure of the famous plantation. For the second consecutive year, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens will collect food during the holiday season to benefit the Lowcountry Food Bank.

In November and December, bring one or more non-perishable healthy food items to Magnolia to receive a special discount off the general garden admission. Buy one garden admission for $15 and get the second one free. This offer expires Dec. 31.

It’s a way to give back some of that holiday spirit, and tour one of the area’s famous landmarks.

Reach Stephanie Harvin at