Harkers Island, N.C.

Nov. 18, 2019


It all started way back in the early 1900s.he people of Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout started moving to Harkers Island. Because of the storms, the banks were almost destroyed so many of the people moved over to Harkers Island, just a short distance away. Even as they were moving, they were always celebrating Christmas. There are stories told over and over of their Christmas traditions.

Life was very simple at that time. They would cut down their Christmas trees, usually a cedar tree, or maybe a pine, from the wooded areas of the banks and carry to their new homes on Harkers Island. Children did most of the decorating with pine cones and paper chains. They often used seashells, too.

We had no electric lights, not even a bridge. But in the late ’30s, thanks to Earl Davis and Maxwell Willis (and others), we got both. We owned our own electric company, named the REA and we were very proud. The first light bill was $2.50 for everyone.

Electricity changed everything including Christmas. Electric lights on the tree was magical and over the years the lights grew and grew from house to house, churches and businesses. You have never seen so many lights! There were Christmas programs at the school and all the churches and everyone cooked for weeks to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

In recent years everything on our island has changed again, but this time not in a good way. People lost interest in decorating, and many summer houses were left empty and dark for the winter, and many of our people are older and not able to decorate, so it was a dark time on Harkers Island and Christmas was not the same.

Until a few years ago when a group of ladies on the Island said we are going to “bring back the lights to Harkers Island” and they did.

We loved the lights on Davis and that inspired everyone to work hard to bring back the lights and the Christmas spirit to our community. We decided that our island symbol would be an anchor, an “Island Anchor” that would represent our fishing heritage and the fact that Jesus, born on Christmas, is our anchor too.

Thanks to Richard Gillikin, who designed our anchor, and Andy Scott who makes our anchors, now everyone has anchors hanging everywhere all year long, but especially at Christmas when they are decorated with lights of all colors.

We have anchors all around our harbor, filled with blue lights, in memory of islanders who have passed on. We have an anchor on our welcome sign, anchors at the school, and now we have a Christmas scene at the “Jib” in the middle of the island. Many hours of hard work have gone into this community project since we began.

Thanks to Randy and Tiffany Ramsey we now have our very own Cab and Barbara Ramsey Island Decorating Contest in memory of Cab who really loved all the lights, and we have a community gathering to light the “Charlie Tree” at The Bridge Down East.

Charlie was a special little boy from our community who died many years ago and we remember him every Christmas and dedicate his tree to all island children.

Last year after Hurricane Florence, many peoples’ decorations got ruined, but we still had our anchors and this year we are working harder than ever to “bring back the lights” to our island. We have had fundraisers all year including a community choir singing in September and we dedicated that offering to Ocracoke to help our island friends across the sound. We are also gathering Christmas lights to send to Ocracoke to make sure they have a Merry Christmas as they rebuild their houses.

This year our Community Christmas party and tree lighting will be Saturday, Nov. 30, at 6:30 p.m. at The Bridge Down East Ramsey Center. Everyone is invited! We will give thanks to God for allowing us the opportunity to light up Harkers Island once again!

Love and prayers,


(1) comment


God Bless the Charlie Tree and all Down East'rs this Holiday Season! [smile]

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