By Christmas Eve it was impossible to tell the tree was dead as it sparkled in the bright sunshine and danced in the Ocean breezes and colorful wrapped boxes spread under its branches in the sand.
On Christmas morning a solitary figure wearing a kilt played “Amazing Grace” to the tree as others left their homes, vacation rentals, cottages and hotel rooms to watch.
It was the most wonderful island way to remind ourselves of peace on earth and goodwill to men and women.
And no one knew who did what to make the miracle happen.
Who lost their mind, taking a dead Christmas Tree to the Beach and planting it in the sand?
Who took their empties and used them to inspire real decorations?
How many contributed to bringing the tree back to life with decorations?
What was in the boxes and why place them there?
Why Bagpipes and how were they heard through the wind to beckon a collection of strangers from far and near to gather on the Beach as in worship?
Christmas on Tybee is quiet, quirky and generous.
The City kicks it off with Chamber of Commerce decorations and a street party, parade, institutional decorations and a real tree bolted to the concrete at the end of Tybrisa Street so the wind doesn’t blow it away or it’s not stolen. The only thing not decorated are the Stop Signs.
The Island Churches take it from there with formal services, choir cantatas, caroling and a reminder that it’s all supposed to be about the birth of a child.
The Bars take over planning celebrations, parties and feasts that culminate on Christmas morning when special Potluck dinners are sponsored for everyone who has nowhere or no one. All the things the Churches talk about take flesh and the body of Christ shows up in multiple places at the same time.
Year-round residents remaining on Tybee end the day in clusters of afterglow in the Churches, Bars, hotel rooms, on the Pier or the Beach.
Christmas on Tybee is a crazy tapestry of planned, unplanned, family, singles, religious and not-so-much under a blazing canopy of stars with channel markers underneath floating on the Sea, roaring waves sloppily kissing the shore, Seagulls standing sentry on the Beach all mixed together in a magic gumbo of acceptance in a world increasingly intolerant of most everything.
If you’ve been on Tybee long enough you may remember that virtually all of the sand dunes between 14th and 6th Streets are built upon discarded Christmas trees.
In days of old, twenty years ago, everyone on Tybee threw their discarded Christmas Trees on the Beach to catch the sand and make dunes. It worked magnificently well and without any Government assistance, the Dunes are now four deep in some places where there once were none.
And every few years, one of them magically appears between the Beach and the 14th Street crosswalk to remind us what Christmas really is on this island.