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How to set new holiday traditions, Hilton Head style

snowman made of sand on beach

There are many ways to make a house – and a new neighborhood – feel like home. Maybe it’s finally getting down a new routine or becoming a regular at a local restaurant or coffee shop. It could start to feel like home once you start making friends, getting to know your neighbors or settling into a new job.
But for many, the true test of if a new place really feels like home is the holiday season.

This year’s more challenging than most when it comes to the holidays. While many people aren’t gathering with family and friends as usual, that doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate. And one way to really make a new place feel like home? Start new traditions.

If you’ve recently moved to Hilton Head, then start celebrating Christmas the way the locals do!

Here’s a look at some of our favorite traditions on and around the island.

Celebrate Christmas on the beach

Many local families like to have their own little Christmas celebration on the beach. Bring your normal beach gear – a blanket, chairs, snacks – but also bring some holiday treats, gifts to swap or maybe even a mini Christmas tree. Weather permitting, set up on the beach on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, and make this your new holiday tradition.

Use shells and sand dollars to make your own ornaments

Another way to celebrate your new move to the beach and start a new holiday tradition? Collect shells and sand dollars at the beach and turn them into Christmas ornaments!

Make sure whatever treasure you find on the beach – sand dollar or conch shell – isn’t alive! It’s illegal to take living creatures from any of our beautiful beaches. Sand dollars should be hard and white. The live ones are usually brown, softer and if you flip them over have little moving spines on them. They also tend to turn your hands yellow when they’re alive.

After you collect your shells and sand dollars, you can paint them or decorate them however you wish, then glue ribbons to them to turn them into ornaments.

Make a night out of Looking at Christmas Lights

Get to know the island and the surrounding area while getting yourself – and your family – in the Christmas spirit. Pack some hot chocolate, candy canes and other Christmas treats, load everyone in the car and spend the night driving around looking at Christmas lights. There are a few big displays on the island each year, including Hilton Head Fire Station #3, Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina and The Island Rec Center. Old Town Bluffton is also usually pretty decked out, and you can check social media to see which neighborhoods are going all out this year as well.

Instead of a traditional Christmas dinner, eat Like a Local

Tired of ham or turkey every Christmas? Eat like a local instead!

Celebrate your new home by making it a tradition to cook local favorites every Christmas – Lowcountry boil, SheCrab soup, oysters, shrimp and grits, crab cakes, pimento cheese. How fun would it be to create a Lowcountry feast each Christmas?

If you don’t feel like cooking everything yourself, check out the takeaway specials from some of the local restaurants – or make it a tradition to go out for Christmas dinner instead. Even with the pandemic, there are a few restaurants that have outdoor seating with gorgeous views and would make for a beautiful Christmas dinner.

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