WILMINGTON -- Christmas is all about traditions, personal and public. And some of those traditions are local ones that have been here for decades. Erin Boyle from the lower Cape Fear Historical Society says Wilmington City Commissioner James Wade was a large reason Wilmington still celebrates one of its biggest holiday traditions. Boyle said, "In 1927 he decided to bring a live cedar, or a cut cedar tree to city hall and so he decorated that and put that up and then the following year he wanted it to be a live community tree." "They promoted this contest which was for all of New Hanover County to go and find the largest Christmas tree." And so began the tradition of lighting the world's largest live Christmas tree in Wilmington's hilton park.a tradition many people look forward to each year. Boyle said, "There was a brief period of time during World War II where it wasn't lit but other than that it was always celebrated." New Hanover County library historian Joseph Sheppard said, "Wilmington, being a Port City, had traditions that you find from elsewhere in the world that you may not find in other parts of the United States." Sheppard showed the evolution of the commercial side of Christmas in Wilmington. "They are promoting Christmas as a children's holiday. So you start to see, particularly in the 1880s, early 20th century, toys and candies," Sheppard said. Sheppard says Wilmington has remained a traditional city, keeping the focus on what's important. "People still try to remember the basic gist of what Christmas is all about and that's a wonderful thing about the Wilmington community." Anybody can check out Wilmington's history. The archives at local libraries and historical societies are open to the public.
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