The tradition of Christmas in northern New England has been celebrated from the mountains to the sea for hundreds of years now. That tradition continues today at several lighthouses along the coast of New Hampshire and Maine. Several of these beacons were adorned this past holiday season with wreaths, bows and lights galore.
Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in Portsmouth, New Hampshire was decorated around the lantern room with lights. The interior was made festive with garlands, stockings and more. “Volunteers of the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, spent two weekends decorating,” says Jeremy D’Entremont, president of the group. Visitors of the holiday open house at the lighthouse enjoyed the festive scene in early December.
Every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Cape Neddick “Nubble” Lighthouse in York, Maine is lit up for the holiday.
The lighting ceremony is a big event attended by an average of a thousand people and includes live music, hot chocolate, cookies and the arrival of Santa Claus on a fire truck.
In the past, Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Bristol, Maine had been decorated by the Friends of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, with a large wreath placed on the tower.
Owl’s Head Lighthouse in Maine was also decorated for Christmas. Paul and Mary Ellen Dilger of the Coast Guard currently live in the keeper’s house. “Paul put up the lights around the top and a wreath on the tower,” says Mary Ellen. The Dilgers have also decorated their house as well as their yard. “We had to staple the decorations down so they wouldn’t be blown away. We have our wreath on the house tied down with a bungee cord,” Mary Ellen added.
Bass Harbor Lighthouse on Mount Desert Island in Maine was also decorated with candles in the windows and a wreath on the tower.
Christmas at New England’s lighthouses would not be complete without a visit from the “Flying Santa.” Pilot Bill Wincapaw started this tradition in 1929. The Friends of Flying Santa organization now operates the entire mission, carrying out this tradition started by
Mr. Wincapaw and continued for decades by the famous New England author and historian Edward Rowe Snow. Last year marked the 75th anniversary of the flights, which continue primarily as a way of showing thanks and appreciation to the men and women of the
U.S. Coast Guard and their families.
The Flying Santa visited locations all over New England this past holiday season, including Coast Guard Station Portsmouth Harbor in New Hampshire and Portland Head Light,
Owl’s Head Light and Coast Guard Station Southwest Harbor in Maine, among many others. Santa arrives in his helicopter “sleigh” and the children of the Coast Guard personnel get to sit on Santa’s lap. They even receive a gift directly from Santa’s hands.
This story appeared in the
December 2005 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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