2020 is an unprecedented year, where the concept of time has been altered. More than once I have heard the question “What day is it again?” (or have asked that question myself), as months ticked by in relative isolation, and traditional events that indicated the season – like the 4th of July fireworks show, or September’s Day at the Docks – had to be cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
So if you haven’t quite realized yet that we’re in December, and that Christmas is three weeks away, you’re not alone.
Many folks I’ve talked to have said that the combination of quarantine, separation from friends and family, and the skewed passing of time have hit their typical holiday spirits hard, and they are having trouble getting motivated to be excited about the season.
But this is exactly why we need to ramp up the holiday spirit more than ever, and finding joy and celebration in an otherwise bleak environment is something that islanders do exceptionally well.
For example, when the pandemic first hit in the spring, shuttering local schools and businesses, the community responded by hosting the first-ever “Hatteras Island Car Safari,” where local homes were decked out with stuffed animals and wonderfully cheesy yard art.
Even some of the island’s most beloved events began in response to local crises, like the aforementioned Day at the Docks Festival, which was launched in 2004 to help Hatteras village recover from 2003’s devastating Hurricane Isabel.
True to form, Hatteras and Ocracoke islanders are already crafting ways to make 2020 merry, from launching new Christmas on Hatteras social media groups, to altering local events to fit in with a pandemic landscape. Local stores and makeshift tree lots have already sold out of their first wave of pre-Thanksgiving Christmas trees, and holiday light-covered homes started popping up on the scene in mid-November. Clearly, after months of staying home and staying cautious, our community is craving a little holiday spirit.
The good news is that if you need a big infusion of the holidays, (or just a little boost and a reminder that it is, in fact, December), there are ways to spread the joy without spreading disease. So let’s lift our neighbors’ spirits – as well as our own – by shifting our islands’ holiday spirit into high gear. Here are three ways to get started…
Let’s all get lit!
In early November, social media started humming with local posters encouraging the community at large to “cover the islands in Christmas lights,” and gauging by the colorful displays that are already brightening the dark winter skies, this trend is taking hold.
As the springtime Car Safari proved, a little cheerfulness in the front yard goes a long way, so if you have always dreamed of decking out your home in hundreds or thousands of twinkling lights, there’s no better time than the present.
Personally, I adore Christmas lights, and the tackier, the better. I have honestly thought that Clark Griswold’s home in Christmas Vacation was just a little too tasteful and subdued, and I’ve been steadily digging through every box of lights we own to figure out just how many exterior surfaces we can cover with flashy, obnoxious and at-times inappropriate holiday lights. (You can reuse Halloween lights for Christmas, right? Surely all that orange will complement the giant red and green strobe lite!)
So please join me in my tacky-light-odyssey, and let’s start spreading the holiday spirit from the outside in. (Also, my apologies to our neighbors in advance for our imminent display.)
Get out – or stay home – and do something!
Though the majority of big 2020 events were postponed or canceled, the holiday season has a surprisingly varied array of virtual and in-person events where community members can celebrate the season.
The Island Free Press will post local events as they are announced on our events page, but in the meantime, you can mark your calendars for these unique and upcoming celebrations.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse’s 150th Anniversary
On December 16, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, (in partnership with the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society and Outer Banks Forever), will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse’s first lighting through a series of virtual presentations and events that are wide open to the world at large.
Black Friday featured several open-air markets on Hatteras Island, and judging by the socially distanced crowds, these initial markets were a solid success. December already has a couple of additional holiday markets on the books, including the upcoming Holiday Gift Market at Berkley Barn on Ocracoke Island and the Light House Christmas Art Show on December 18 and 19.
Remember that the IFP will continue to share holiday events as they pop up on our events page, and if you have an event you’d like to share with our community, feel free to send it our way at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to spread the word, and the Christmas cheer.
It’s been another tough year for local businesses. After Dorian wiped out a large chunk of the fall visitor season in 2019, (especially on Ocracoke Island), a grand springtime reopening was postponed by the arrival of the Coronavirus pandemic, and the subsequent closing of the Outer Banks to non-residents until May. Businesses lost months of potential income as a result, and while the fall of 2020 brought a hefty boost of visitors, (with the second-busiest October on record), many local business owners are still playing catch-up from the delayed start of the season.
So with this in mind, as well as the fact that wandering around a crowded shopping mall isn’t the best idea during a pandemic, 2020 is an ideal year to shop locally.
Keep in mind that in the wake of COVID-19, many businesses have expanded their online shopping options out of necessity, which makes it easier than ever to purchase, pick up, and / or deliver local goodies. Peruse your favorite stores’ websites or social media pages, and you’ll also find that there are a ton of local flash sales and cyber deals that are extending well past Black Friday.
Simply put, whether you live here full time and everyone in your life loves beachy presents, or you’re miles away but an islander and a coastal-themed gift giver at heart, shopping locally has arguably never been easier, (or more important), than it is in 2020.
The Bottom Line…
Other than binging on holiday-themed junk food, (which includes eating days 1 through 14 of my annual Chocolate Advent Calendar), I’ve had a tricky time getting into the holiday spirit this year, and I’m sure that you have, too.
But never forget that our island community is amazing at finding the silver linings of every storm, and highlighting those silver linings until that’s all you can focus on. Case in point, every time we cover a hurricane, the immediate storm coverage is generally followed by months of happier stories about locals and visitors volunteering, donating, helping neighbors, and just doing whatever they can to get the islands back on track.
So let’s do it again! Granted that in 2020, our foe is not a hurricane or a nor’easter, but a global pandemic, and there’s only so much you can do when being social and gathering together is generally off the table. But with a little creativity, a few fun events, and a boatload of Christmas lights, we islanders have the inherent ability and the attitude to make the 2020 season as bright as possible.