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14 Nov 2017
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Island Insider Tips

Isle of Palms vacation rentals are a great place to spend the holidays, create memories with family and friends, and find the reason for the season. Major big box stores are already releasing their Black Friday sales circulars.  Cyber Monday specials are already leaked.  And we haven’t even hit Thanksgiving yet. Amidst all that conspicuous consumption, it’s nice to take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of the holiday, to reflect and meditate in a non-material realm. One of the most spiritual places in the Lowcountry is a bit north of Charleston, near the town of Monck’s Corner (though it’s definitely out in the country).  I’m talking about Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery on the banks of the Cooper River.  It’s located at 1098 Mepkin Abbey Road in Monck’s Corner, a doable drive from all our SC vacation rentals, be they Isle of Palms vacation rentals or Folly Beach rentals Charleston.  They are an especially scenic drive from a luxury house on Isle of Palms if you take the back way via Highway 41.  It’s even quicker than going the interstate, and it’s a lovely trip. Every time I’ve been to Mepkin Abbey, I’ve come away feeling a special kind of peace that’s hard to describe.  It’s a peace that passes all understanding.

More about Mepkin Abbey, a great day trip from our Isle of Palms vacation rentals

The monks have the gift of hospitality, and they welcome visitors for the day, or for a weekend or weeklong retreat.  The Abbey has a wonderful chapel (their services start at 3:00 a.m.) and library.  The grounds and gardens are gorgeous.  The famed publisher Henry Luce and his wife Clare Boothe Luce bought the land, which was originally the home of Henry Laurens, who succeeded John Hancock as president of the Continental Congress.  The Luces and Laurens are all buried on the grounds. In 1949, the Luces gave much of the land to 29 monks from Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, who then established Mepkin Abbey on the land.  They live a life of simplicity, work and charity.  For years the brothers earned their living by raising wonderful fresh eggs, which they sold in area grocery stores and to local restaurants.  Due to an unfair and unethical smear campaign by some zealots at PETA, they were forced to close their egg production.  Now they earn money by raising gourmet mushrooms (shiitake and oyster) which are sold in local stores and served by the best restaurants in Charleston.  You can find them in Bi-Lo, just over the Connector from our Isle of Palms luxury rentals, as well as in Whole Foods. Mepkin Abbey hosts numerous special events, including concerts and performances during the Spoleto Festival.

Find a bit of Bethlehem near our Isle of Palms vacation rentals

Find a bit of Bethlehem near our Isle of Palms vacation rentals

The Year of the Angels near our Isle of Palms vacation rentals

What’s come to be their best known and most beloved event, however, is their annual Crèche Festival, going on now.  Mepkin has a collection of more than 800 crèches, or nativity scenes.  Each year around Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent, they display a large number of them to the public.  The manger scenes come in all shapes and sizes, in all different media, from countries and cultures across the globe. Over 80 volunteers help with the festival.  They transform the library into a forest-like setting that makes an enchanting backdrop for the nativities.   Several other mangers are situated outside on the grounds. This is the 15th installment of the festival, and this year’s display is the called The Year of the Angels.  What began with 1,500 visitors is now expected to host well over 7,000. There is no charge, although donations are welcome to help them expand the collection.  You must, however, make a reservation, which can be booked online.  This is a notoriously popular event that books up early.  Tours are every half hour during the day.  They run from now until November 19th, and from November 24th through December 2nd.  If you’re coming to a Charleston beach house during those dates, this is a wholesome, meaningful thing to experience. If you miss out on a spot this year, take heart.  You can still visit Mepkin Abbey year round.  Just keep this in mind when you book one of Isle of Palms vacation rentals for next holiday season.  Here’s a link to their website:

A great place to do some local Christmas shopping, too, when staying in one of our Isle of Palms vacation rentals

Mepkin also has a terrific gift shop on site.  You can buy nativity scenes, fresh mushrooms, mushroom compost (like gold for the gardener on your list).  There are also Christmas gifts, books, artwork and gourmet products from other monasteries.  If you’re staying in a beach house Charleston, it’s a great place to do some Christmas shopping.  It's perfect for finding something to bring home as a memento for friends at home. A while back, Charleston’s newspaper The Post and Courier had a feature article with more about the annual tradition: The photo above is the cover of a book Mepkin published on the 10th anniversary.  It has some wonderful photos from their collection.  The book along with many others are available in their gift shop. The holidays are a popular time for rental homes South Carolina, especially beach house rentals Charleston SC.  If you haven’t already booked one, you’d better hurry and give EP a call  -  we’ve got the best in luxury beach house rentals SC. All best, Lowcountry Lisa your Isle of Palms vacation blogger

Photo credit: Mepkin Abbey