Take Ten: Tried & True: 10 Christmas Traditions

BY Staff

“Because that’s how we’ve always done it” gets a positive spin in December; Christmas is our most tradition-bound holiday and that’s a good thing. We asked several high-profile beach people about their traditions which unsurprisingly center around food family and fun.

1. Celia Rivenbark writer most recently of the popular “Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank”

“There are lots of traditions in my family but the one I like the best actually comes from my husband’s (Scott Whisnant) Greensboro family. Every Christmas morning for decades the tradition is for everyone to line up in ahallway near the room where the tree is. Theyoungest family member is first then it goes in order of age until the oldest family member is at the end of the line.

“Once in line someone says ‘Go!’ and the littlest one rushes into the room where the tree is and starts ripping into the presents. The rest of us follow and rip open in order. Then we all eat sticky buns that a neighbor has made for more than 20 years as a gift and the morning is complete.

The kids love it because it makes them feel special and as the years have passed even the surliest teenagers get giddy-excited at taking their place near the very front of the line.”


2. Ace Cofer owner of Café del Mar

“At the shop I know we always go bowling the week before Christmas. We have a party over at the bowling alley and hang out for a few hours with the staff. There’s actually a bowling ball sitting in a hole on our counter in the shop and we take that with us. Last year I got a clock that says ‘Drink coffee you can sleep when you’re dead.’ This year I think we might start a secret-Santa tradition.”


3. Frank Smith Wrightsville Beach fire chief

“The Fire Department always delivers Santa Claus to the town Christmas tree. Every year we go with the Lions Club down to the airport where Santa parks his sleigh and we ride with him back to the beach on a fire truck.”


4. Nan Graham writer professor public radio commentator

“When I was growing up we would play a game where you had to ‘catch’ a person on Christmas morning. You would catch them by saying ‘Christmas Gift’ before they did and whoever said it first got a gift from the person who got caught not saying it. My parents always played this game with my sisters and me and we all knew that my parents were going to give us a gift anyways but it was still fun. My sister and I still do it to this day. She’ll call me on Christmas morning and start yelling ‘Christmas Gift.’ My children humor us by still playing the game but they do it begrudgingly. I enjoy the game; I think it’s a Southern thing.”


5. Bob Simpson Wrightsville Beach town manager

“We didn’t have too much tradition in the military around Christmas time but after I got out of the military I was up in Maine and we would always go snowmobiling on Christmas Eve. Six or seven of us in the family would go. We’d load up the sleds and put the kids behind us while we rode the snowmobiles. It was nice. Taking a nighttime trip was always interesting. We’d bring a little hot chocolate and just enjoy ourselves. When I came down south we sold our snowmobiles because there’s not much use for them down here. We’re going to have to find a new tradition.”


6. Bob O’Quinn mayor of Wrightsville Beach

“My mother always cooks a Christmas breakfast for the extended family visiting us and my wife always cooks a Christmas supper. Every year we’ve had panned oysters at suppertime. My grandchildren used to come down here and we would always let them open one present on Christmas Eve. And we’ve had this Waterford crystal star that goes on the top of our tree and has for 24 years.”


7. Mike Barden owner Surf City Surf Shop

“Icebox cookies. Grandma always made icebox cookies. Christmastime is the only time they come out. No birthdays no nothing just Christmastime. I would share the recipe but only my family members know it. The cookies would come out on Christmas Eve and last through Christmas Day. We’d always have a huge Christmas buffet with them too. My aunt makes the cookies now — but no one makes them like Grandma.”


8. Mike Kirkley owner Wrightsville Beach Supply Co.

“If the waves are good on Christmas day a lot of the local guys go out and surf on Columbia Street. Most of the other guys are home for Christmas or visiting family out of town so we have the water to ourselves. It’s really the only time of the year that we can say that.”


9. Tony Butler manager Sweetwater Surf Shop

“I always go home to Kinston and spend Christmas with the whole family. We eat a big Christmas dinner and have turkey and dressing and the works. We of course do Santa Claus too afterwards with everyone.”


10. Sylvia Holleman Wrightsville Beach town clerk

“Starting in November we get a lady to come share with the kids about a less fortunate child who might go without Christmas presents. We have the kids pick age groups and a child and we go shopping for a present for that child. Then my entire family always gets together the week before Christmas for a huge breakfast in the recreation hall at the church. There’s about 40 of us and we fellowship and let the kids play on the playground then the moms go and shop till they drop. It’s a lot of fun.”