Thanksgiving in Aiken

Two Traditions That Make Thanksgiving in Aiken Uniquely Memorable

Article by Shelby Mayer

Photography by Rebecca Williams and Gayle Bryan

Originally published in Aiken City Lifestyle

Once again, the Thanksgiving season is upon us. There’s nothing like taking a day to spend quality time with family and friends, indulge in turkey and pumpkin pie, and focus on what we’re thankful for. And one thing that’s sure to make you feel thankful is simply spending Thanksgiving in Aiken. There aren’t too many days throughout the year when our little town is busier than it is on Thanksgiving Day. Aiken is home to a couple of distinctive festivities that will make your holiday feel even more special. 

To kick things off, you can start your Thanksgiving morning with a uniquely Aiken experience by attending the Blessing of the Hounds, one of Aiken’s most long-standing Thanksgiving traditions. Not only does the ceremony serve as the unofficial start of Thanksgiving Day, but it also precedes Aiken Hounds’ formal Opening Meet, officially kicking off Aiken’s hunt season. A local clergyman officiates the annual ceremony, and it pays homage to the tradition of foxhunting, the skilled hounds who participate and the heritage of Aiken’s historic hunt culture. Did you know that Aiken is distinguished as having the oldest drag hunt in the nation? In a drag hunt, a cloth is saturated with fox scent and dragged across the terrain in order to create a trail for the hounds to follow. Mounted riders follow the pack of hounds, who are rewarded at the end of the artificial chase. This beloved, must-do event is a beautiful way to begin your Thanksgiving day. The Blessing of the Hounds occurs at 9 AM on Thanksgiving at Memorial Gate in Hitchcock Woods, and admission is completely free. The traditional ceremony lasts around 30 minutes. The most direct entrance to Hitchcock Woods to use for this event is South Boundary, but please keep in mind that it is closed to traffic early that morning. In accordance with this limitation, attendees are encouraged to park downtown and walk to the event, so make sure you give yourself at least 30 minutes to walk from your car to Memorial Gate. Be sure to dress warmly and comfortably.

Once you’ve attended the Blessing of the Hounds, don’t forget to stop for Bloodies and Bagels! This community gathering has been an Aiken tradition since its inception in 2010. Originally organized by the Aiken Land Conservancy, the event is now presented by and raises funds for Mental Health of America of Aiken County. Admission is completely free, but donations are always welcome. Bloodies and Bagels will be held from 9 AM to 11:30 AM on the grounds of the Aiken County Historical Museum, located at 433 Newberry St. SW. In the event of inclement weather, the gathering will simply be moved inside the museum. You can drop by anytime during those hours to enjoy complimentary Bloody Marys, bagels, coffee and hot cider with your loved ones. It’s the perfect follow-up to a chilly morning at the Blessing of the Hounds.

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