• Karen Heckman Stork

A Northerner's Southern Christmas

A Christmas haiku: It is December.

A North Carolina Christmas --

Sun and surf and sand.

I am enjoying the experience of Christmas in the South, and it is very different from Midwestern Christmases of my past. First of all, the weather, of course. We didn’t have an overnight freeze until November 28 this year. And it was “chilly” for a few days with high’s “only” in the 40’s, but temps slowly rose again to around 60 degrees. But we’ve had no snow, just the constant buzz of mulching in a field next door to our community as the city continues to collect and mulch the thousands of trees and debris left by recent hurricane Florence. I must add that Wilmington has received over 100” of rain in 2018 shattering the old rainfall record of 83” set back in 1877.

Festive decorations around town are happening as they did in my past home of Lincoln, NE. The difference is that these decorations are put up along the boardwalk in Carolina Beach so you can walk along the boardwalk and observe both the eternal ocean waves as well as seasonal decorations. However, the Santa decorations do look a little forlorn on green grass instead of snow. Another difference is the fact that along the coastline, holiday parades are often conducted using decorated boats and advertised as Holiday Flotillas. Two such events were held here in Wilmington this year, one at Wrightsville Beach and another at Carolina Beach.

The most prominent area of coordinated lighted decorations is in Airlie Gardens (where there are more trees than gardens). It’s the biggest light show in the city, and it’s actually a walk-through experience instead of a drive-through as in colder climes. Tickets must be purchased ahead of time “by the carload” and the event is always sold out. Unfortunately, I didn’t get tickets soon enough so this is one feature of a southern Christmas that I have yet to experience.

Another new experience with outdoor decorations involves Jeff Gordon Motors. NASCAR racing is very big in the South, and Jeff Gordon is one of the biggest names in racing. Here in Wilmington, Jeff Gordon Motors sells cars. Every Christmas they get into the spirit of the season by installing half a million Christmas lights, coordinating them with Christmas music, and putting on a free display of holiday cheer which is widely enjoyed.

I will be driving up to my daughter’s home, and my two grandchildren will both be home for Christmas. I am looking forward to spending time with my family as the most important part of my first southern Christmas.

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