Thursday, October 6, 2022

Why does the city skip Thanksgiving?

Wreaths with fat red bows have adorned city light fixtures downtown as early as Nov. 1 to prepare for Christmas. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Wreaths with fat red bows have adorned city light fixtures downtown as early as Nov. 1 to prepare for Christmas. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

WILMINGTON — Why is Wilmington skipping Thanksgiving?

We’ve come to expect this from corporate enterprises. Christmas music in Mayfaire. Those giant red balls. Walmart frills out on display. Red Starbucks cups.

Somehow, even public entities have waged a war on Thanksgiving. 

For the past 20 years, starting the day after Halloween, city employees scurry to affix wreaths to light poles, allowing the biggest holiday to bleed into the entire month of November, taking up nearly one-fifth of the year. Thanksgiving never stood a chance.

Results from a recent unscientific poll show people tend to fall into one of two categories when it comes to Christmas decorations in November: 1. It’s sacrilegious; 2. Bring it on.

Eric Lunesford falls into the latter.

“I’m good with it,” he said. “My kids love it. Seeing them light up makes me light up.”

From underneath the city’s towering, 35-foot tall unlit Christmas tree on the Riverwalk, Wilmington native Zach Hope said the practice means no reverence for November.

“This just, like, robs fall of everything,” he said. “You gotta eat the turkey first. After that, you’re good to go.”

John “Robbie” Roberts has owned a salon for 23 years just a door down from the tree on Market Street. Every year, he sees the wreaths and the snowflake lights pop up after Halloween. In recent years, he said the city has slacked off with its decorations game — skipping over poles, no longer lighting on-street oaks.

“I think it’s early,” Roberts said. “I’m fine with it around Thanksgiving. Just not the first of November.”

Last weekend, Katherine Christopher said Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance, waving at kids downtown. “It’s a little much, a little too early,” she said. “I am definitely a Christmas-comes-after-Thanksgiving person.”

The city’s Christmas tree and menorah is at the foot of Market and Water streets in downtown Wilmington. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

Turns out, the city has a pretty good reason for infiltrating November. With 58 4-foot wreaths, 12 5-foot wreaths, and 60 sprays (note: we still don’t know what sprays actually are, but maybe they’re red berry bunches), city employees have plenty of work cut out for them.

“We start after Halloween each year because it takes around three weeks to complete,” said city spokesperson Jennifer Dandron.

About seven employees from the city’s Community Services Department and “Tree Crew” are assigned the task of festooning downtown, with the goal of getting all decorations up by Thanksgiving, according to Dandron.

“The decision to start when we do is based more on time management and resource allocation than anything else,” she said.

The city gives Christmas a few days of leeway after New Year’s, beginning the clean-up process on Jan. 4, which takes about a week.

Maybe this year, all the grinches need an extra month of Christmas cheer.

“What a crappy year it’s been,” said Vicki Prince, a stylist at Roberts’ salon. “Maybe this will refresh us, help us feel a little better.”

Jess Oxendine, who manages Edge Of Urge, said she thinks the decorations are pretty. “I feel like this year it’s do whatever you want that makes you happy,” she said.

Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee Still at

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