A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

For nine decades, Our State has made its way into homes across North Carolina, the United States, and the world. To celebrate, every month this year, we’re paying tribute to

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

For nine decades, Our State has made its way into homes across North Carolina, the United States, and the world. To celebrate, every month this year, we’re paying tribute to

Our State 90 Years Since 1933

For nine decades, Our State has made its way into homes across North Carolina, the United States, and the world. To celebrate, every month this year, we’re paying tribute to the readers who inspire us, offering a taste of our earliest recipes, and revisiting old stories with new insights. Follow along to find out how our past has shaped our present.


So you think your Christmas tree can be a pain to decorate? At least you don’t need a crane to hang the lights and tinsel.

For more than 80 years, though, cranes were required to trim the City of Wilmington’s colossal community Christmas tree — a 75-foot-tall, 210-foot-wide live oak billed as “The World’s Largest Living Christmas Tree” — with thousands of festive lights, tons of Spanish moss and tinsel, and one shimmering star on top.

Cover of The State with the Wilmington Christmas Tree

The community Christmas tree in Wilmington’s Hilton Park appeared on the cover of the December 1972 issue of The State.

The giant tree, now believed to have been more than 300 years old, stood in Wilmington’s old Hilton Park, a few blocks east of the Cape Fear River. The tree-lighting tradition began in 1928 with about 750 lights and grew into an annual celebration that featured approximately 7,000 lights and five tons of Spanish moss. Each year, the tree attracted some 130,000 merrymakers from across the country and even from other countries.

In 1946, after a four-year hiatus during World War II, the lighting ceremony returned to great fanfare: Church choirs from all over Wilmington showed up, along with 40 jolly Santas and a Fox Movietone film crew. Through the years, the famous tree also appeared on postcards and graced the cover of The State on December 1, 1972.

Eventually, the majestic tree began to show its age, shrinking to approximately 50 feet tall and about 75 feet wide. Its final year as a community Christmas tree was 2011, and it was pulled up in 2015, uprooting a once-hallowed holiday tradition that still shimmers in North Carolinians’ Christmas memories.

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This story was published on Nov 27, 2023

Jimmy Tomlin

Tomlin has been a features writer and columnist for the High Point Enterprise since 1990. His writing has won numerous state, regional, and national awards.