The beaches of Tybee Island are calm this time of year, but the island itself is abuzz with renewed life. Boats are strung with lights, and shop windows display festive arrangements with coastal flair. Preparations are underway to make this holiday season an event to remember.

This year, the focus is not only on festive decorations and parades, but also on giving to those in need, as many events support causes from local food pantries to animal shelters and more.

"This year, the true spirit of the season is even more noticeable, with so many providing opportunities for people to donate items to help others," says Chantel Morton, Main Street Coordinator on Tybee Island.

The Floating Christmas Parade has become a staple of the holiday season on Tybee Island. Every year, boats hang bright decorations from bow to stern, resulting in a colorful festival of lights on the water. The celebration begins at 6 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Crab Shack with a hot dog and chili reception. Boats sail at 7 p.m. Bring a food donation for Second Harvest and attendance is free.

"We've been doing this since 2009, and we have more boats every year," says Jack Flanigan, owner of the Crab Shack. "I'd guess around 25 boats participate. Everyone's invited. We throw a good holiday party, everyone has fun, and it's all for Second Harvest."

Celebrated interior designer Jane Coslick is offering an inside look at her work this season. Several historic cottages on Tybee Island have been restored and decked out in holiday glory, and viewers are welcome to experience them on guided tours.

Jane Coslick's Holiday Cottage Tours begin at 10 a.m. Dec. 7. Proceeds benefit the Savannah Humane Society low-cost spay/neuter clinic.

In addition to taking part in events, the Tybee community encourages residents to shop local this season.

"Shoppers will find a plethora of unique, locally owned and operated businesses for their entire gift-giving needs and for themselves year-round," Morton says. "A few holiday ideas are one-of-a-kind locally made art and clothing to gift certificates for goods and services. Plus, the one-on-one attention customers receive is a huge bonus."

And when you're buying gifts for those you love, consider buying a donation or two. In conjunction with Community of Giving, roughly 20 Tybee Island shops and restaurants are collecting donations for Rising TYde Community Food Pantry, Toys for Tots and Tybee's Animal Shelter beginning Nov. 28. For a list of participating locations and items needed, click here.

This season, visitors can not only shop at local businesses, they can also vote for which shop is the most festively decorated. Voting begins on Thanksgiving Day and ends Dec. 5. Winning shops will receive awards at the Lights On for Tybee Celebration. To put in your vote, email tybeebeautification@yahoo.com.

With nearly a dozen events planned from Thanksgiving to New Year's on Tybee Island, there is something for everyone to enjoy and a way for everyone to give back this holiday season.

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