Christmas in the US is as varied as its population. While, like many Western European countries, there are carol services in churches on Christmas Eve, gift opening on Christmas morning, turkey and stuffing or ham and cranberry sauce at lunch on Christmas, there are some things that are different. Americans love to decorate their houses and front lawns with lights, Santa and his reindeer-drawn sled, snowmen, manger scenes, and many other things. It is a favorite pastime to go for a drive or a walk looking at the decorations. Some neighborhoods compete and have prizes for the most beautiful, the most original, etc.
There are parts of the US that stand out from all the others. While visiting the Outer Banks off the coast of North Carolina, I learned they had some unique traditions. For one, the town of Duck lights a stack of hundreds of crab pots in the shape of a Christmas tree on the weekend after Thanksgiving.
The town of Rodanthe has some other traditions that exist nowhere else, traditions that date back to American colonial times and earlier. In 1752, when Great Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar that we use today, Rodanthe just ignored it, so Christmas was celebrated 11 days later than the rest of the country. Now it’s known as the Rodanthe Old Christmas. That puts it on January 6th, aka Epiphany.
Christmas in Rodanthe, since the early 1800’s, has been celebrated with food that is suitable for a seafaring town, steamed oysters being the center piece, with lots of silliness and the mythical Old Buck. Old Buck is a bull who supposedly washed ashore from a sunk shop long ago and promptly went to work making progeny with all the cows on the island. Now a bull’s head with a people-populated cloth body appears every year and dances through town. There’s a similar horse effigy named Old Hob from a Welsh tradition that makes an appearance at the same time.
In the past, at Christmas, grudges were sorted out (sometimes with fisticuffs), women got to see their possible future husbands for the first time, and for some reason men sometimes dressed as women and women as men. But these traditions have passed away.
One tradition still exists, though! Right after Christmas there are big 30 – 50% sales all over the Outer Banks, just before the low season hits. Outer Banks Christmas, anyone?
Written by: Brent Adams