Christmas in Abbeville

Last winter, I traveled to Abbeville, South Carolina, for its Fifth Annual Olde South Christmas.  To the casual observer, this event might appear to be merely an instance of savvy small-town marketing—an attempt to capitalize on the trade in nostalgic simulacra of a simpler time.  It had been suggested to me that, despite the superficial resemblance to such ventures, I would find a good deal more than nostalgia in the Abbeville festivities.  I was skeptical, but my curiosity was aroused by learning that the event’s promoters were affiliated with the League of the South.  In fact, while the Olde South Christmas is officially sponsored by the Abbeville Chamber of Commerce, it is largely the creation of Robert Hayes, the state director of the League’s South Carolina chapter, and several of his close associates, including University of Georgia professor Jim Kibler.  When the League first established a chapter in Abbeville, the town hosted an annual “Dickens Holiday” weekend in late November, a largely commercial venture promoted by local merchants.  Hayes and Kibler were quick to recognize the potential for an annual event of much deeper cultural significance, yet one that would generate commercial revenue.  Shortly after the first Olde South Christmas was celebrated, with great success, in 2003, the “Dickens Holiday” was discontinued.  Today, the Olde South Christmas...

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