In 1973, the founders of the original Nantucket Christmas Stroll were merely trying to prevent islanders from escaping to Cape Cod, 26 miles across the Sound, to do their holiday shopping.
That year, in an effort to keep shoppers on the island to shop local, merchants kept their stores open late the first Friday in December. That initial Stroll, christened by merchants as a "Christmas Shoppers Stroll" a mere three hours in duration, was proclaimed a huge success. Shopkeepers entertained shoppers with wine, hot chocolate, tea, mulled cider, fruitcake, and holiday cookies while they perused crafts, books, clothes and wares, and other holiday gift items. In subsequent years, the event grew exponentially, drawing larger crowds until it became a nationally- and, ultimately, internationally-renowned holiday event.
Now, more than 40 years later, Nantucket Christmas Stroll is still held the first full weekend of December every year. Preparation for this event is part of the Chamber of Commerce's "Nantucket Noel," and preparations begin just before Thanksgiving.
Hundreds of decorated seven-foot Christmas trees line downtown streets, and are illuminated in a ceremony with caroling at dusk the day after Thanksgiving. Every year a local artist or decorator is chosen to adorn the huge 20-foot tree at the top of Main Street, a tree that "magically" talks to all who visit it during Christmas Stroll Saturday.
Also on Stroll Saturday, carolers in costume sing familiar holiday tunes at various downtown locations. A variety of live entertainment is offered in the middle of Main Street, which is closed to traffic for the day. There are craft shows, performances, special dinners at island restaurants (make your reservations now!), tours, and exhibitions. Many merchants still offer holiday refreshments to shoppers.
Midday on Stroll Saturday, the Nantucket Town Crier, in full regalia, will ring in Christmas Stroll, and then lead everyone to the wharves to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, who arrive via Coast Guard Cutter, walk down the wharf, and then ride to the Jared Coffin House downtown to meet with children.
The Nantucket Whaling Museum is transformed into a glittering winter wonderland, with the month-long Festival of Trees showcasing more than 80 Christmas trees designed and adorned with unique decorations.
Check our Nantucket.net Calendar of Events for specific dates and times of holiday events on Nantucket Island.
© 2016 Yesterday's Island, Inc. | Nantucket Christmas Stroll is a Nantucket Chamber of Commerce Event