Within the bouquet of memories that people take home from visiting the Harbour Town Lighthouse is how even familiar things look different from here. Sights, sounds, experiences, and the company of our family, friends, and loved ones seem to glow with greater meaning, once folks have seen how they look from the lighthouse. Just as the lighthouse marks a place on the planet for navigators, it also marks moments in time for the people who make the Harbour Town Lighthouse part of their visit to America’s favorite island. Christmas traditions are no exception.
Gradually, by just a few minutes a day, we begin in the fall to exchange our long, gleaming days for bright, sparkling nights. We find it a fair exchange. During high season, we not only are blessed with the greatest number of guests, but we also work what must be the longest day of duty in the Lowcountry. Closing with sunset means around 9 p.m. in midsummer, when the nautical twilight can be as late as 9:15 p.m.
A Christmas Exchange
For Christmas, then, we exchange glowing for glistening. Just a few days before Christmas, the winter solstice brings us a sunset that arrives about 5:30 p.m. What we have grown to appreciate is how the long, dark winter nights make a perfect showcase for the sparkling lights here around the Yacht Basin in Harbour Town. The shops and restaurants have added their strings of sparkle. Some of the yachts are rigged with hulls and masts and spars outlined in Christmas lights.
And the faces. There is a glistening light in the faces of folks who are gathering the gifts they will put under the tree and watch loved ones unveil in just a few days. They anticipate that moment of giving, display gratitude to be here and able to give, and, yes, show a touch of glee at the surprise they have conspired to build. In recent years, it has become the glow of the faces that delights us most of all.
Then We Ring in the New
The reminder of renewal that comes so soon after Christmas is well timed. Celebrating the new year and looking ahead feels especially good after the familiarity of Christmas traditions and all the memories of Christmases past.
Here at the Harbour Town Lighthouse, the New Year’s Eve custom is for people to gather all around the Yacht Basin to watch a giant golf ball drop from the top of the lighthouse as our own marker of midnight. Long recognized as the centerpiece and symbol of Hilton Head Island, our lighthouse has been the perfect place to gather as we cheer the passing of the old year and the arrival of the new.
The beauty of contrast is one of the reasons that holidays sparkle brighter on Hilton Head Island. The covenants that preserve our natural beauty have from the very first included strict discipline about the use of lights. The absence of bright commercial signs serves many purposes, from the obvious to the subtle. Low light keeps our atmosphere unique, calm, and restorative, and it also protects our native sea turtles when the time comes for them to lay their eggs each year.
Against this backdrop, the sparkling season of the holidays shines in a special way here at the Harbour Town Lighthouse. We hope you will come and join us, and we look forward to welcoming you.