HubMob Weekly Topic: Old Christmas in North Carolina

In our new world of blended families, married, divorced and re-married children and parents, part of my family now celebrates "Old Christmas."

Growing up, I remember my grandfather saying that we should celebrate Old Christmas in January so we could take advantage of the after-Christmas sales. I wasn't exactly sure what he meant, but I assumed Old Christmas corresponded with the time the Wise Men finally made it to Bethlehem.

Don, as we all called my grandfather, was a "damn yankee," a Pennsylvania native who relocated to Plymouth, NC after marrying my grandmother. They met while serving in the Army during World War II. Imgaine my surprise to learn that Old Christmas is actually a North Carolina Outer Banks tradition, not something he grew up with "up north".

It seems that when England adopted the Georgian calendar in 1752 they neglected to notify some of the colonies. The change skipped eleven days, and by the time Outer Banks communities realized they were not on schedule with the rest of the world, they refused to conform.

Eventually the celebration did indeed merge with Epiphany. Today's holiday in Rodanthe, NC includes the appearance of Old Buck.

"Legend has it that Old Buck once terrorized the townspeople until a hunter finally felled him. Today, the residents who dress in bull's costume and parade through the celebration bring Old Buck back to life," writes Eric Hause.


Some communities doubled up on the holidays - one town traveled to the other to celebrate December 25, then they switched around Januray 5. We do the same sort of double dipping, with my sisters and me generally spending December 25 with our significant others and their families, and then gathering the first Saturday in January at my mother's for Old Christmas. My Dad (no longer married to my mother) and our "steps" on his side sometimes join the Old Christmas celebration as well, which keeps the holiday schedule a bit more simple.

Our food fare emulates that of the Rodanthe revelers. We roast oysters and enjoy shrimp and whatever other seafood is reasonably available. So far we have been blessed with mild North Carolina weather for outside food prep and socializing around an open fire.

I don't know if any of us has truly taken advantage of the post-holiday sales for our gift shopping, but it sure is nice to have the option!

Copyright Dineane Whitaker 2008 - Please do not copy and paste this article, but feel free to post a link using this url:

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Comments 9 comments

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

I was not aware of Old Christmas, thanks.

ajcor profile image

ajcor 8 years ago from NSW. Australia

Two Christmas parties - New and Old - sounds pretty good to me particularly when the second involves seafood!

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

Thanks for the Hub! - it's shown me that the Greek/Russian/Serbain and other Orthodox Christmas date in January is also celebrated by others. I think I'll do both Christmases this Year!

sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 8 years ago from South Africa

Great interesting hub. but "old" christmas seems a misnomer as it is in the "new" year! LOL

LeaAnne profile image

LeaAnne 8 years ago from North Carolina

Dineane, my Grandmother's family always celebrated "Old Christmas" as well. We could never take the tree down until after the celebration. She would cook a huge meal for "her people" for "Old Christmas" that always included oyster dressing. Thanks for sharing!

dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks for the comments, everyone! I have to admit, I like stretching holidays as far as I can!

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

Well, the real 12 days of Christmas span both Christmasas and actually begin the season of Mardi Gras celebration that "ends" on Fat Tursday, so there's a good, long holiday for you! :) 12th Night is a big celebration that I must look into - a Shakespearan play named for it that, I must re-read as well. Have fun!

dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina Author

Patty, I think you are definitely on to something! Party, party, party!

DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 8 years ago from Central North Carolina

It is also celebrated in many mountain regions of the southeast. I think some of the more isolated places have held on to the old tradition. In the mountains there is lots of music and eating as folks go from house to house.

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