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Photo by Ben Casey
Photo by Ben Casey

The Spirit of Christmas in Oriental

Docked along wide North Carolina creeks emptying into the Neuse River, the Village of Oriental lights Christmas into an art form the second weekend in December. Years ago, Reba Tiller, then and now director of the Pamlico Chorale, wrote the festival theme song It’s the Spirit of Christmas in Oriental, celebrating the merchants’ annual gift to the town.

Crowds squeezing into the Methodist Church or listening from porch or lawn hear choristers celebrate strolling villagers, luminaria along the streets, merchants offering barbecue or bon-bons, their stores joyous with community. Simple rhymes conjure the lighted and decorated boats filling the harbor and the sky with multi-colored sparkle above and below and everywhere in this sailing town.

Soon, elves light hundred of luminaries, musicians begin to tune instruments and voices in harmony on street corners and under trees. Children in the living Nativity scene: sheep and donkeys, angels and camels and some dogs in Santa hats kneel by the straw-filled manger with the main Christmas characters, not far from the water.

On the porch of The Bean, the accordian band plays Jingle Bells; laughter from the sidewalk and shouted greetings warm the evening air. Lofty masts in the harbor outlined or solid with thousands of lights reflect in nighttime waters as the procession of lighted kayaks enters from the dark river, winding a magical journey through symbols of love made of light. It’s the Spirit of Christmas in Oriental under the splendor of the stars.

Harbor Festivities commence at dusk Friday, Dec. 12, luminaries outlining the shores by 5:30 and lighted kayaks parading at full dark. The Christmas parade is set for 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13. Of course, plans stay flexible as weather considerations dictate. Lighted boats are welcome at local marinas, and docking is free at the town docks in Oriental’s harbor.

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