Decorated street light poles, storefronts, and lights framing structures, hint at one holiday that is more like a magical season ending every year. There is Santa Claus arriving by fire truck. “Old Saint Nick” visits with the children at his tiny house in the town park. The children’s eyes light up, as candles peak from windows.
Ladies discuss their plans for Christmas dinner; sharing family-passed-down recipes and apportioning duties to put together that sumptuous Christmas feast. There is recently prepared venison, ducks and geese from the hunt to adorn the food laden tables. Local oysters are caught and shucked. Oyster stew is prepared. Maryland’s “beaten biscuits” are to found.
Out in the countryside you can hear distant and intermittent gunfire of hopeful hunters on their quest to fill their daily limits. They are following the seasonal migration of game birds or tracking other game. In restaurants all up and down the shore, camouflage clothing is in evidence and conversations center on the good fortune of the day or of the ones that got away.
Generosity abounds in Eastern Shore towns, small and large. Many stores and other businesses provide for collections from folks who wish to donate toys, clothing, canned foods and other essentials for the less fortunate, and for victims of disasters such as super storm Sandy. Even in these difficult economic times, and as a rule, Eastern Shore residents are considerate of one another, be it a neighbor or a stranger.
The beauty of nature abounds even in the bleakness of winter. Holly and Magnolia leaves adorn many fireplace mantels and stairway rails. Mistletoe, if it can be found, is strategically placed for maximum effect. Many are hoping the magic works. Christmas trees light up living rooms, dining rooms, studies and other favorite places in the home. Christmas ornaments are placed with care; some are family heirlooms going back generations. Finding just the right Christmas tree is a family tradition combined with a family outing. Upon returning, hot cider chases the chill away.
Homemade crafts and foods are sold at church bazaars to raise funds for various causes and events of the season. On Christmas day churches serve Christmas dinner for those in need of food or friendship. Surely, there is, “no greater love”. No fanfare, no fuss, no muss, just people helping people.
The stars in the heavens seem to twinkle a bit brighter over the Bay. Even, the rivers and the fields, aided by the moon, are illuminated a bit more by the beauty and awe of the Christmas season.
Wreaths and other floral arrangements appear in cemeteries as love ones and departed friends are remembered during this nostalgic season. Similarly, natural adornments are seen on church alters and throughout the sanctuaries.
Children wiggle and giggle with anticipation. Cookies and milk are strategically displayed on the mantle place or the dining room table for Santa’s visit. Logs burn brightly in the fireplace. Then, there are those special moments when thoughts of Christmas past blend into gratitude for Christmas present, and into hopes for future blessings, for all.
This festive anticipation often culminates on Christmas Eve. Families gather. Christmas stories are read. Christmas carols are heard.
Christmas has come to the Eastern Shore once again.
Besides the seasonal changes of climate in this magic land of marshes, rivers, creeks, fields and communities, every Christmas brings us another kind of season; one for the human heart. This season is marked by the joy of being with family and friends, of gratitude for our blessings, and by the generosity of citizens seeking no reward. And last, but not least, is the hope that this way of life, in this small corner of the world, will continue for generations and generations to come.