it has been nearly a year since I decided to live full-time in a
non-Hatteras Island locale, and yet the reasons why island life is
superior keep making themselves crystal clear, despite the obvious
benefits of being a North Carolina highlander. For example, if we get
saltwater flooding at 2,300 feet above sea level, at least we’ll know
we were the last ones left.. (Also, did I mention there’s a Taco Bell
20 minutes away?)
Christmas and the holidays are a particularly difficult time to be away
from home, because if you’re anything like me, it can be very hard to
find a community that accepts your overall oddness, your poor choice of
parade costumes, and your inappropriately obscene, albeit not
intentionally so, Christmas light displays.
there are some personal Hatteras Island Christmas traditions that can’t
be tempered by location alone. For example, I will always adorn
my tree with seashells secured with twine, paper clips, or dental
floss, always spend a portion of Christmas morning fishing, and always
engage in online Christmas shopping for the majority of my holiday
purchases. (After all, once you’ve done your Christmas shopping sans
pants, it’s hard to go back.)
with that being said, there are a few holiday experiences that I will
happily list in detail and that have been instrumental to maintaining
my fond memories of Hatteras Island. They serve as the cornerstone as
to why Christmas on Hatteras Island is better than any other place on
earth -- regardless of proximity to Taco Bell.
An unprecedented attitude toward snow
me to let you in on a little secret about Hatteras Islanders. They
don’t get snow very often obviously, but when they do, they really know
how to turn it into a good time!
a daughter of New England, my childhood experience with snow is
basically a very dull memory of building a standard snowman -- complete
with neon pink winter garments I was purposely trying to ruin so I
wouldn’t have to wear them anymore, dozens of wet boots, and a
ridiculous amount of shoveling the driveway.
-- and snow in particular -- was never “fun” when I was growing up. It
was simply a catalyst for destroying whatever ugly winter attire my mom
had purchased for me at Walmart and also a fabulous introduction for my
parents on the legal ways to utilize child labor.
imagine my surprise when during the first big winter storm I
encountered as a Hatteras Island resident in 2003, everyone I knew was
not dour or sighing or sneakily hatching out new plans to dispose of
their unfashionable winter gear.
no! Instead I was greeted with neighborhood yards filled with
snowmen in grass skirts with fishing poles, kids running around in
heavy-duty jackets and board shorts, and slightly-intoxicated adults
skidding down deserted side streets on surfboards attached to pick-ups,
in a new sport informally deemed “snow surfing.” (Please note: You
should not try this at home. But if you do, holy cow, it’s a
blast -- not that I would know first-hand or anything.)
another winter snowfall landed on the island less than a decade later,
it was more of the same – everyone was grinning, playing outside, snow
surfing, building island-appropriate snowmen, and throwing snowballs at
oncoming local traffic just for the heck of it. (Okay, maybe it was
just me for that last part, but you get the drift.)
essentially one of the major things I miss about Hatteras Island is its
fantastic inherent ability to have fun in otherwise normal and dreary
winter circumstances. Who knew how much fun a typical snowfall was? Who
knew that you could add Bailey’s Irish Cream to snow and make a tasty
drink called “snow cream?” And who knew that such a concoction would
make throwing snowballs at your neighbors’ passing vehicles so much
when a hurricane hits, it is serious business getting back to normal,
but in the winter months when a little unanticipated snowfall is your
biggest concern, Hatteras Island weather is a pure joy.
Ingenuity with Christmas lights
as the sight of a snowman with a pampas grass skirt and a Hawaiian lei
induces a smile, so does the spectacular display of Christmas lights
that a few leftover fishing supplies and a winter’s worth of boredom
fact, it became a tradition of sorts for my fiancÚ and me to drive
around the island and admire the yards and waterfronts of our neighbors
to see what fabulous holiday light scenes they were able to create. The
best are always the homes that use
fishing and boats to stand out -- and I’m looking at you, Kinnakeet
Shores house with the cool boat-and-fish-being-reeled-in motif.
However, any flash of color will always do.
best honors, naturally, go to those folks with crab pots who stack them
up in Christmas-tree style towers and then loop Christmas lights
throughout the metal chicken coop structures to make them glow. I
imagine this is an undertaking and is even more frustrating when the
weather warms up and the owners have to actually use the crab pots for
fishing and stuff. (Although for all I know, maybe they leave the crab
pots strewn with the bright purple, blue, red and green flashing
lights, as crabs can’t resist an underwater flashy disco environment.
Hey, it sounds attractive to me.)
Anyways, I always tried to do my best to add to the coastal light display with a bit of flair that was instilled by my dad.
was always his goal to create a light display similar to the Griswolds
in National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation,” except far more obnoxious
and tackier, and I tried my best to follow in this time-honored family
a result, over the years, I have attempted to create an anchor outline
across the two decks of my house. It ended up looking kind of
phallic-shaped and is, therefore, unsuitable for sharing or
publication. It also had three different strands of 10-way
flashing lights that most likely induced seizures for my poor neighbor,
and we had an electric bill that was twice as high as was appropriate,
even by Hatteras Island standards.
feel like I should take a moment to explain the “anchor” lights to
unsuspecting fellow sight-sightseers like myself. At the time, I did
not know that the cheap lights I had selected to take up the right and
left “anchor” parts of my display were not very bright, leaving me with
the main structure of the “anchor,” which, yes, because of my design
techniques and the placement of the porches,could have been
misconstrued as something slightly obscene. I would have taken this
down, but I was lazy.
Glad that’s all cleared up.
now that I think about it, as sad as I am about leaving, I have an
inkling that my neighbors had a block party minutes after my U-Haul
left the driveway.
the point is that I am always proud of how Hatteras islanders use the
supplies at hand to come up with some ingenious methods of showing
their Christmas spirit. Whether it’s having a boat outlined with
Christmas lights sitting in front of a Kinnakeet Shores lake, or a
tower of crab pots serving as the ultimate crustacean night club,
Hatteras Islanders just celebrate with style.
A boatload of holiday spirit!
do believe there are very few places in the world where you can cover
your ill-fitting yoga pants in metallic blue paint, hot glue a paper
snowflake to your head, and get applauded when you walk down the street
while waving at curious onlookers. In fact, in most communities, I
think this series of actions would most likely get you committed.
Thank goodness for Hatteras Island.
As you may have guessed, this spectacle, -- which I did engage in -- was part of the annual Hatteras Village Christmas Parade.
as a lone snowflake, I was a sorry sight. As you may have guessed by my
inadvertent obscene Christmas lights, I am not the most crafty or artsy
of people, so when I spray painted my pants, spread Elmer’s glue and
glitter all over an old light blue sweater, and tried to create a
snowflake that looked more like an illiterate series of Egyptian
hieroglyphics, my ensuing costume did not resemble anything holiday
related. At all.
stationed next to a dozen other local realty company employees who knew
what they were doing costume-wise and armed with a bag of candy I could
throw out to people at will, I was suddenly just one of a dozen
snowflakes, all parading through Hatteras village to entertain and all
take part in an incredible celebration of community spirit.
The Hatteras Village Christmas Parade is awesome.
is not only because it’s an event in which weirdoes like me can shine
in their metallic-fat-yoga-pants glory, but because it’s an event that
gets everyone on the island in one location to cheer, have fun, and
celebrate the incredible season that brings us crab pot Christmas trees
and snow surfing.
something remarkable about Hatteras Island, especially during the
holidays, which is hard to explain but which basically comes down to
appreciating and celebrating the weird but awesome folks who make up
have a sneaking suspicion that in another locale, I would have been
politely asked to not participate in the Christmas Parade, because of
my limited supplies accumulated from the back of my closet and ACE
Hardware. Also, I would probably have to file a police report or two
based on my inherent love of snow surfing, and the, ah, inappropriate
nature of my Christmas lights, regardless of the original intention.
(What a fascinating COPS episode that would be!)
one of my favorite things about Hatteras Island is that
“put-up-with-others” attitude, -- a definite plus for someone like me
-- and the willingness to make the best of any bad situation, whether
it’s an unexpected snowfall or a parade participant dressed like a
fourth-rate drag queen.
always an optimism on Hatteras Island, which is even more pronounced
during the holidays, that will make even the biggest Christmas Scrooge
shrug and help himself to a big helping of snow cream -- or a margarita
in dire circumstances-- and that’s why my home is especially wonderful
Crist and her fiancÚ are spending time at their newly purchased
property in the mountains of North Carolina, though she insists she
will be back on Hatteras one of these days – maybe for the annual
Christmas Parade. Meanwhile, she may occasionally write about island
life from her new perspective.
This year’s Hatteras Village Christmas Parade is Saturday, Dec. 14.)