Charleston Local Customs

  • Local Customs
    by Ewingjr98
  • Local Customs
    by Ewingjr98
  • Local Customs
    by Ewingjr98

Most Recent Local Customs in Charleston

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    Sweet Grass Baskets - Mount Pleasant

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Dec 29, 2011

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    Sweet grass is a grass that grows naturally from the Carolina to Texas along the coastal dunes. It is also common on the coast of Africa, in countries that grew rice hundreds of years ago. These people used the grass to make baskets for winnowing and hauling rice and other products. When the slaves were brought to America beginning around 1500, the coastal African people were in high demand because of their experience in growing rice. When the slaves arrived, they found grasses similar to those in their homelands, so they began creating baskets. After the Civil War, the basket making continued in some coastal areas, in particular, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina near Charleston, where the the baskets have become a favorite souvenir.

    Mt. Pleasant, is about four miles north of Charleston on Hwy 17. About 75 ghetto basket stands line this busy road. Baskets are also sold Charleston's Market area. It is estimated that there are about 300 families involved in the basket industry, down from 1200 families in the 1970s. Sweet grass baskets can sell for as much as $500 if they are of high quality.

    In the Charleston Market sweet grass baskets typically cost several hundred dollars for a large basket and maybe twenty dollars for a tiny basket an inch tall and three inches wide.

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    Sweetgrass baskets

    by ZanieOR Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Sweetgrass baskets at Old City Market

    Sweetgrass basket making is an art that has been handed down from generation to generation (mostly women), and is part of the uniquely low country Gullah culture.
    The art was brought to the coastal islands of South Carolina and Georgia by slaves from West Africa. The materials have been modified but the techniques are centuries old.
    They are coiled baskets made of sweetgrass harvested in the spring and summer on the edge of the dunes near the ocean, often decorated with longleaf pine needles and woven together with strips of palmetto leaves.

    Sweetgrass baskets have been exhibited at such places as the Smithsonian. They are beautiful and not inexpensive -- I can't remember the price tag of baskets I saw in Charleston, but I just looked on-line and there were some selling from $130-$275, which actually isn't prohibitive if looked at as a work of art rather than just a souvenir.
    They sold by artisans in a number of places, including the Old City Market in downtown Charleston.

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    The Union American Flag

    by BruceDunning Updated Jan 3, 2011

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    American Union flag

    This was the flag that was flow at Ft. Sumter and still very well preserved to this day. That is hard to imagine. Ft. Sumter and the flag were surrendered to Southerners, as the first thrust of the Civil War. It is now is the museum for display

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    Sweetgrass Baskets-A Regional Art

    by VeronicaG Updated Sep 11, 2010

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    Sweetgrass Baskets

    Sweetgrass Baskets--an art, not a craft! You'll find individuals selling these baskets all over the city, especially near public buildings and at THE MARKET, but don't think you're going to run away with a real bargain because pieces of art can be pricey.

    The knowhow for making these baskets came from slaves who were brought here from West Africa. These baskets are woven in coils and made out of a specific type of grass found growing in this part of the country. They have been part of South Carolina's tradition since the 18th century.

    Recognized as art, the better samples have been placed in museums around the country and even The Smithsonian. They can take as little as a few hours for smaller pieces to several months for more complicated creations--and priced accordingly. We were shown a large, woven 'platter' shaped piece said to cost $10,000!

    Example: A small round basket (approx., 5" by 5") which I thought would be great for jewelry cost $119. I didn't purchase a basket at this time, but you might want to. You'll have many opportunities to do so, just be selective.

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    Local Cookies

    by grandmaR Written Feb 25, 2010

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    from Olde Colony Bakery website

    When we go to Charleston Harbor Marina (which is in Mt. Pleasant) we get a 'goodie bag' from them which often has some Benne Wafers in it. The Benne Wafer is a thin cookie, made with tasty toasted sesame. Benne (the Bantu-word for sesame pronounced ben YAH) was brought from East Africa and planted extensively throughout the South.

    Sesame is a seed that can be used in many of the same ways as nuts. When toasted, its flavor is almost almond- or peanut butter-like flavor. The original Benne Wafer is produced in Mt. Pleasant at the Olde Colony Bakery

    They can be ordered on-line. The picture is from their website since I have long ago eaten all of my benne cookies.

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    The City of Charleston

    by Ewingjr98 Written Sep 27, 2009

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    Charleston was founded as Charlestown or Charles Towne, Carolina in 1670 and moved to is present location in 1680. The city is located along the South Carolina coast at the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. By 1690 this was the fifth largest city in the US.

    During the American Revolution, Charlestown was twice targeted by the British forces, and was captured in 1780. Before the Civil War Charleston was a hotbed of states' rights activism, including the divisive Democratic National Convention which allowed Lincoln to be elected. The Civil War actually began in Charleston with the siege of Fort Sumter.

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    Charleston's French Quarter

    by Ewingjr98 Written Sep 27, 2009

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    The French Quarter of Charleston was designated as such in 1973 when the area was being preserved and revitalized. This section of the city along the Cooper River contains many of the city's oldest structures as it was one of the original parts of the city when it was founded in 1680.

    This area has art galleries, Waterfront Park, Pink House Tavern (1712), Dock Street Theatre (1809), French Huguenot Church (1844), St. Philip's Episcopal Church (1835), and the Old Slave Mart (1859).

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    Sweetgrass Baskets and the Gullah

    by TheTravelingNerd Updated Apr 15, 2006

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    Gullah selling sweetgrass baskets on Meeting St.
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    Charleston sweetgrass baskets date back over 300 years. The tradition was brought here by slaves from Africa and are an important craft and artform to the Gullah people of Charleston. The baskets are made of local sweetgrass by Gullah women. You can find women selling these downtown in the Market. Some of the designs are really amazing. The Gullah are descendants of African slaves many who came from Angola. The baskets were used to harvest rice and the tradition is handed down to each generation.The Gullah are comparable to the Creoles of Louisianna, but different of course. The Gullah are mainly in South Carolina...being a unique culture they have their own food, stories, music and (my favorite) language. The Gullah language is english mixed with over 4,000 African words from tribes all over Africa. Up until the 1940's alot of Gullah people still lived downtown, but now most of them are just on the islands. My grandfather can speak some Gullah just from growing up downtown and being around it. You can see some nice examples of the baskets on this website http://charlestonsweetgrass.com

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    Southern Food

    by TheTravelingNerd Written Mar 8, 2006

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    Red velvet cake
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    Foods that are a MUST try when visiting Charleston are:
    fried okra
    catfish
    hush puppies
    shrimp and grits
    she-crab soup
    grits
    collard greens
    hoppin john (rice and black eyed peas)
    corn casserole
    macaroni and cheese (trust me the southern version is very different from your traditional mac & cheese)
    boiled peanuts
    bar-b-q sandwhiches at Bessingers
    DESSERTS:
    apple or peach cobbler
    sweet potato pie
    red velvet cake

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    Sweet-grass Basket-Weaving

    by tpangelinan Updated Oct 9, 2005

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    Sweet-grass baskets

    Now we heard about the sweet-grass baskets that were made here, but until you feel the quality and see them make by the poeple that create them we didn't under stand why they cost so much. These sweet-grass baskets are all hand made a take some time to create, they say this trade has been past down for gereration since times of slavery and that the craft itself originated in West African slaves. These baskets are incredible, you can feel the quality and know that they will last for generations in your family.

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    The Open Air Market in Charleston SC

    by tpangelinan Written Oct 9, 2005

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    Market Hall, the entrance to The Open Air Market
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    This market is the talk of the town, every one know about it even if you just got into town. This is a market that goes for blocks, from Meeting St down to East Bay St., 4 building stretch the whole length and have around 100 merchants selling their goods here. Save a whole day to shop here, you won't regret it. You will find just about any thing here and at a good price, Sweet-grass baskets are the #1 item, wood carvings, jewelry, t-shirt, candy, many souvenirs take to home to family members and much more. These photos will give you an idea of the area. Starting with the Market Hall on Meeting St. which was built in 1841, designed after a Greek Temple. Inside you will find the Daughters of the Confederacy Museum. This land was donated by a local wealthy family in the early 1800's to be used for a market which originally sold food like meat and fresh veggies locally grown. Now it's a free for all!

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    Like a good Cigar then check this place out!

    by tpangelinan Written Oct 8, 2005

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    The Smoking Lamp

    If you love a good cigar then make sure you stop by here and visit The Smoking Lamp located at 189 East Bay Street, phone # (843) 577-7339 We went in and the owner Lola Marley was right there to help, she was very nice and very helpful, she really know her stuff and took me right to what I was looking for. You are able to smoke them big cigars right in the store. This is a great shop in an old build along Bay Street, they have cigars of all type and sizes, cutter, lighters, walking sticks and so much more. They also have one of the largest walk-in humidor room lined with Spanish cedar. Very cool place!

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  • Grits

    by MandaJ320 Written Jun 3, 2004

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    Grits is a common staple in Charleston at breakfast time. You have it with eggs and bacon, or with salmon, or with shrimp, or even by itself with butter and salt. It's a lot like cream of wheat, but it's made from corn, and it's just more gritty. (Hence the name, grits.) A lot of people that aren't from this place hate it, and a lot of people have never even heard of it. (All the waitresses looked at me funny out west when I asked them if they had it!!! ) But if you have breakfast here, expect to see it somewhere!!!

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  • Tea- of the cold variety

    by MandaJ320 Written Jun 3, 2004

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    Call it what you please, whether it's sweet tea, iced tea, or unsweetened tea, it's a big thing here, and in the rest of the south. If you want tea at a restaurant, you will get cold tea, not hot tea. I never even tried hot tea until my first visit up north!!!

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    Window boxes

    by ZanieOR Written May 16, 2004

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    One of the many, varied Charleston window boxes.

    The historical district of Charleston is beautiful in May, and made that way that take great pride in their houses and gardens.
    My traveling friend Marilyn was so impressed with the beauty and variety of the window boxes for flowers that bloomed everywhere, that she took many photos of them with the idea of creating a calendar.
    Though she never did the calendar and later wished that maybe she had taken more photos of other subjects, her window box photos tell their own story of lovely Charleston.
    If I get her permission, I will feature more of her window boxes in a Charleston travelogue.

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Charleston Local Customs

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