Sisters Rhett Outten and Mariana Hay are the third generation owners of Croghan’s Jewel Box, a gleaming boutique that has been in business for more than 100 years. This sparkling nook is a treasure trove of heirloom silver, estate jewelry and classic gifts. Having grown up in the Holy City, Rhett has many fond memories of holidays past. Read on for a glimpse into how the Croghan family spends Christmas in Charleston!
Charlestonly: Share your earliest holiday memory with us.
Rhett Outten: Having been in a family jewelry business all of my life, my Christmas memories do not consist of roaring, relaxing fires, baking with grandmother, or trimming the tree leisurely with an eye toward perfection. It’s more like a race to the finish line, all hands on deck. When I was very young, we had a bow machine. I would stay home with the babysitter and pump out bows. As teenagers, my sister and I manned the phone, wrapped packages, and eagerly delivered presents all over town (what a treat it was to drive!).
C: How would you describe the holiday season in Charleston?
RO: It was crazy busy, and crazy fun, as our family got so many other families ready for Christmas in Charleston! We worked right up to the afternoon hours on Christmas Eve, waiting on the final deliveries and putting in the right hands the perfect gift to be opened the next morning. Customers would (and still do) bring champagne and Christmas cookies. It was a festive atmosphere albeit total chaos!
NOTE: Croghan’s silver Rice Spoons—a tradition that harkens back to the plantation age—make a popular holiday gift!
C: How did you spend Christmas Eve?
RO: When it was just family and a handful of employees, Mom would tuck a Christmas surprise in each person’s hand with a big grateful smile, a wink, and a jewel to wear home on your finger or wrist! With the Croghan’s Jewel Box door locked, we rushed home to change into velvet for the three cocktail parties we always attended before midnight mass at the cathedral. We would race to our pew and collapse as we listened to the magnificent choir and watch mom take her only two-hour nap of the season! I’m not sure how Santa ever found us, but he did – and it was always grand in my memory, with the best treasures tucked in the toe of our stockings.
C: Walk us through Christmas Day with the Croghans!
RO: My parents hosted a party every Christmas morning. The bourbon began flowing at 11 AM, with a table full of warm ham biscuits and roast beef nearby. Mom would stand behind the counter at Croghan’s Jewel Box weeks leading up to the big morning, inviting people to join us Christmas day. There were many strangers mixed in with dear old friends – everyone dressed up, wearing their Croghan’s jewels that they had just opened that morning! The party would come to a close with us all around the piano singing.
C: How are you keeping the Croghan family holiday traditions alive?
RO: We have now segued to a Christmas parade party, where biscuits and bourbon still abound! Our dear friends certainly do not wait for an invitation, but simply come. We love to include new people in town, and those who are sad and need to witness the joy a parade brings to the souls of small children. The yard and porch are filled with families and dogs, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa or the fleet of basset hounds marching with their owners. The Burke Band shakes the foundation of the house as it booms down the street. Many a parade party has ended with us all around the piano singing carols, just as in Christmases past.