Sunday, December 09, 2012

Still More Christmas Traditions

On Friday & Saturday I shared some Ocracoke Island Christmas traditions, and promised a few more for today.

Many years ago (at the turn of the twentieth century) some island children kept an old custom of visiting family and friends at Christmastime, and holding out their hands, palm up. "Christmas treats," they would say, and be rewarded with a few pennies or a nickle or a dime.

 I'm sure this practice hearkens back to the tradition alluded to in the seasonal song "We Wish You a Merry Christmas":

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer
We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some, so bring some out here

For a number of years Ocracoke had two Methodist churches. The Southern church was located on Howard Street (where Dicie's Cottage is today); the Northern church was located on the Back Road (where Zillie's is today).

One year two local carpenters built a large faux fireplace and chimney for the Christmas celebration at the Northern Methodist church. After the children's program of scripture reading, carols, and a pageant, Ben Gaskill (1871-1953), dressed as Santa and hidden in the chimney, was to descend from the fireplace to distribute bags of fruit, nuts, and candy. Unfortunately, his pack was too large, and he got stuck in the chimney, and had to be rescued. Still today, a few older residents get a chuckle thinking of the time Santa Claus got stuck in the chimney!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the day Charles Lindbergh landed on Ocracoke. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous7:34 AM

    Thank you so much for writing about Ocracoke Christmas Traditions. Please thank Blanche for sharing her memories too! I really enjoyed reading your descriptions and stories related to Christmas. Ocracoke is a very special place and I am thrilled that you took the time to compose these entries and share them. It is one of my favorite Christmas gifts this year!
    NJ Reader

  2. Anonymous9:18 AM

    From DC

    Thanks for such an interesting week.
    1st I've heard of Old Buck or the meaning of figgy pudding.
    Do you know the approx.year of that amusing Santa(Gaskill) story?
    I'm curious...have you ever played Santa Claus?

  3. DC, the Santa (Ben Gaskill) story probably took place in the very early decades of the 20th century.

    The only time I have ever played Santa Claus was about 20 years ago in Guatemala. I was given a Santa costume (which was much too small for me), and asked to visit a home for mentally disabled children, where I was to distribute candy and other treats.

    I was instructed in how to say HO HO HO in Spanish (I don't think I ever got the pronunciation quite right).

    The boots were so small that I struggled for many minutes pulling them on. When I was finished (and worn out from the effort) I looked down, only to discover that I had the left boot on the right foot, and the right boot on the left foot. I was not about to go through that ordeal again, so I simply walked pigeon toed!

    The children were delighted.

  4. Anonymous10:18 AM


    Thanks for the delightful antidotes! I've played Santa f/t, p/t on and off since '74. (Got wet on once and twice an unsuccessful attempt was made to pull off my beard.)

    A few years ago I wondered about figgy pudding and did an internet search which produced baleful results. After selecting and reproducing one of the most promising recipies, I brought the final product to the Christmas Dinner. After sampling this timeless delecacy, my comment that we can now say that we have figgy pudding was met with polite agreement. It was merely OK. Since then I have stuck with the Ocracoke Island Fig Cake, which is a surefire crowd pleaser.

    Hoping all a safe and love filled holiday season.

    TTFN Bear MacDonald

  5. Anonymous12:07 PM

    From DC

    Philip, I appreciate your reply which was even funnier than the older Santa tale.
    It's likely that my grandfather got a kick out of the Santa incident too since he was born in 1892.

  6. debbie s.4:32 AM

    gotta love santa getting stuck!

    I remember when i was little (the house in my memory was the house we lived in while in Utah, which would put me about kindergarten age, 'Santa' came to visit at our (then) annual xmas eve party.

    I vaguely remember thinking it was Papa (my grandfather, who was rearing me), but then he walked in the room, and I was in SHOCK.

    To this day, I'm not sure who it was- probably a coworker or hapless employee of Papa's, but it sure did make an impression!!!!