Holiday Cheer Comes to the Outer Banks
When it comes to the holidays the Outer Banks has its own way of doing things and over the years, I have come to truly appreciate how wonderfully different it is. Somehow—and I’m not sure exactly how it’s all come about, a very traditional feel for the holidays has been blended with a truly local view of things.
Most of America kicks off the holiday season with Black Friday, that retail saturnalia that seems to bring out a unique breed of Christmas shopper. Sure, there are some great values in local stores that weekend, and Santa does make his presence known, but the real local celebration for the season is the following Friday and Saturday.
There is magic in the Manteo Christmas pageant the first Friday of every December. Staged with the cooperation of the Lost Colony, it captures the very essence of what small town life is supposed to be. The Manteo High School Choir performs (brilliantly), there is dancing and a reciting of The Night Before Christmas. Held on the steps of the old Dare County Courthouse—now the home of the Dare County Arts Council—the setting is like something from a storybook.
Out on the street, the very crowded street, Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church hands out their delicious brunswick stew and across from them there is a seemingly endless supply of hot chocolate and cookies.
The Christmas Tree is a huge fur tree on the waterfront and when Santa shows up, he has two functions—light the tree and talk to all the children who want a little bit of his time.
The next morning, the Manteo parade is as much a part of the Outer Banks tradition as the Friday tree lighting.
A more recent tradition—they have only been doing it for five years, but a lot of fun, is the lighting of the Duck Crab Pot Christmas Tree. Admittedly, it doesn’t have quite the aesthetic appeal of a towering fir tree, verdant in its dark green shades bursting into light . . . but it sure is fun.
It is a great way to get people into local shops, but more than that, it is a real statement that the Village of Duck is a real town with its own traditions and way of doing things.
It is a glorious, fun afternoon filled with singing, lots of hot chocolate and donut holes from Duck Donuts. The Outer Banks SPCA is always on hand with a couple of canines to adopt. The whole event has always been very dog friendly and it sometimes seems as though the dogs enjoy it as much as anyone else. Food for Thought, the folks who have been feeding school kids for years, holds a raffle every year.
Plenty to eat this year with the staff from Fishbones handing out a hot, nourishing and tasty conch chowder.
Music has always been a part of the Crab Pot Tree lighting and this year was no exception.
The local musicians from Just Playn’ Dixieland were on stage at the village green playing Christmas music and the First Flight High School advanced and glee choirs strolled along the boardwalk singing carols. The carolers were a real treat for a lot of shoppers in Duck businesses.
Whatever adults may think the highlight of the day is, nothing quite compares to Santa Claus arriving in a fire truck with sirens wailing and police stopping traffic.
We wrote about the Duck Santa a few years ago and nothing has changed in how he talks to children and the joy he seems to carry with him as he wades through children calling his name.
“Being Santa Claus is a very big honor,” he said when we spoke to him in 2012.“And it’s a very important job. But most important of all, I can’t tell you how much fun it is.”