Riding "Old Buck" at the Rodanthe Old Christmas celebration. Photo, Outer Banks History Center.
We’ve written a lot about holiday traditions on the Outer Banks and many of the traditions we’ve noted go back 20, 30 maybe even 40 years. But compared to one holiday tradition on the Outer Banks, those are infants new to the world.
Just on the other side of Oregon Inlet, in the Village of Rodanthe, there is a Christmas tradition that can trace its roots to colonial America—1752, to be exact.
The Rodanthe Old Christmas was traditionally celebrated on January 5, 11 days after Christmas, although that date has changed now and it is held the first Saturday after the New Year to accommodate travel schedules—January 6 this year.
The day includes lots and lots of homemade food, games and tradition. The highlight, though, is a visit from “Old Buck.”
Old Buck, so legend has it inhabits the maritime forests of Hatteras Island making his annual appearance at the Old Christmas celebration. He’s done this, according to local residents, for the past few hundred years.
The story goes that he was a survivor of an 18th century shipwreck who upon reaching shore found great favor with the Hatteras Island cows. He eventually wandered off to the forests, never to be seen again except when Old Christmas comes around.
The Rodanthe Old Christmas can trace its roots directly to the decision, in 1752, to adopt the Gregorian Calendar, chopping 11 days out of September, jumping from September 2 to 14 with nothing in between. Before that the British empire had been using the Julian Calendar, that had been unchanged since the time of Julius Caesar and
What the change in dates did was to align the British year with what the rest of Europe was using.
The law was necessary but very unpopular in England and the colonies and, especially in more remote areas, not accepted, making Christmas come 11 days after December 25.