Ocean City mom's beachy Christmas Tree becomes holiday hotspot

OCEAN CITY, N.J. (WPVI) -- You may have heard of 'Christmas in July.' However, today was more like July during the Christmas season.

"Little, simple things like a Christmas tree can make such an impression and a big deal to people," said Sue McElwee on a summer-esque December day.

McElwee, a stay-at-home mom of four, is responsible for the latest holiday hotspot at the beach on North Street.

"Last year, we just stuck it in the ground like an umbrella and hoped for the best," she said about the lone Christmas Tree sitting in the sand. It was originally intended as a prop for her family photos.

"It ended up being a really popular thing and tons of people were coming down to take their family photos," McElwee said. "Everybody started kind of leaving shells and sharpies and people started putting their names, well-wishes."

She felt compelled to bring the tree back for the 2020 holiday season, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Through the power of social media, neighbors and tourists alike are visiting in droves.

"A lot of people said that the pandemic has been something to take them back to old tradition," said David Stout of Ocean City.

Lugging a bucket of water, Stout visits the beach once per day. On his hands and knees, he hand-washes every seashell that decorates the base of the tree.

"I'm the Christmas Tree-caretaker," he said. "I come down every day and clean off the shells to preserve all the well-wishes and the remembrance for people passed."

Stout enjoys meeting families and volunteering to take their holiday photos.

"It's just great to be a part of the Ocean City community," he said.

That community shines through year-round. Although it is known as a summer vacation destination, Ocean City puts on a show for the holiday season. The town is adorned head-to-toe with decorations and wreaths. Free horse and carriage rides are offered on select weekends in December. Plus, various family-owned businesses and boardwalk stores are open with safety measures in place.

"There's always stuff going on down here, which is really nice," said Sue McElwee.

This includes even more Christmas Trees popping up on beaches such as Ocean City's 21st Street and 55th Street. Other shore communities such as Sea Isle and Ventnor are also planting holiday cheer among the waves.

To learn more about Ocean City's holiday events, visit their website.

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