Santa Claus surrounded by the combined choruses of the Manteo schools at the Manteo tree lighting ceremony.

During the holidays the Outer Banks is all about tradition, and it would be har to imagine a better tradition that the Manteo tree lighting. If ever there was an evening that perfectly described small town life in America, the hour and a half or two hours on the Friday evening after Thanksgiving sums it up perfectly.

There’s music, there’s dancing, there’s a gigantic tree and of course Santa Claus.

But that doesn’t describe the marvelous feeling off community that is so much a part of the ceremony.

There is no high-stepping rocket troupe from New York high stepping their way across the stage. This is my child or your child or the neighbor’s child singing with the choir. Or maybe it’s someone’s wife dancing with a local church group.

Everything centers around the old Dare County Courthouse—now the Dare County Arts Council Gallery—where green and red lights illuminate the brick. It’s always packed with people; moving is a slow process but along the way there is always one or two friends to greet.

The Mt. Olivet Church comes every year, handing out cups of free Brunswick stew, and the stew is very, very good. 

It was a cool night this evening, and there was a smattering of light rain, so that hot food seemed even better than usual. It went perfectly with the hot cider or hot chocolate that was being handed out.

They did shorten things just a bit this year. The threat of rain and the damage it could cause to some of the instruments accompanying the singers was enough for organizers to ask Santa to light the tree about a half hour early. 

And this year, the tree looks better than ever. In the past the tree was illuminated with blue lights. This year, multicolored lights set the night sky ablaze.

Next up on the Christmas tree lighting is the Town of Duck tomorrow—Saturday.