Christmas tree at Jersey Shore is a DIY tradition. Sign a shell, hang it up. By: Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Normandy Beach Christmas tree at sunset, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

What began as a small “Charlie Brown” tree with solar lights planted onto the beach has now grown into a Christmas tradition for the community of Normandy Beach and beyond.

Sue Buzzi placed the Christmas tree on the beach at 2nd Avenue in 2012, following Hurricane Sandy, as a sign of hope for the neighborhood which had been decimated.

“It was really desolate,” said Jack Buzzi. “It was destroyed, everything.”

The following year, Sue put a bigger tree on the beach, and soon thereafter, they had help from the Nolan and Lill families.

A clam shell decorated for the Normandy Beach Christmas tree, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

The Nolan family provides the power for the lights, and Rick Lill drills the holes in the clam shells, which serve as decorate-your-own ornaments. The shells are now harder to come by since the beach replenishment, said Jack, so they now get some of their clam shells from commercial fishermen, and Rick painted over some of the ornaments from years past so they can be reused.

This year, Jack had to build a planter to hold the Christmas tree. They used to bury it in the sand, but now there are walkways in place with wooden fencing aimed at keeping beach-goers off the newly planted dune grass. The large, white planter was placed on the walkway near a bench, giving visitors a chance to sit and enjoy the tree.

Some people write just a message on the shell they decorate. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

While many people write a simple “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” on their shell, others get a little more creative and draw beach-themed artwork. Some memorialize lost loved ones, like Alphy and Dot Norman, who spent 50 years at Normandy Beach.

“There’s a lot of shells on here to remember somebody,” said Jack.

The families check on the supplies at the tree regularly to ensure there are enough shells, the markers haven’t run out of ink, and there are plenty of zip ties to secure the ornaments to the tree.

“In the beginning, we just had a tree,” said Jack. “But now about 800 people come here.”

Scroll below for images of this year’s Normandy Beach Christmas tree.

Other people get a little more artistic with designs. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Directions and materials are supplied: just grab a shell, decorate, and secure tightly to the tree. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

The Normandy Beach Christmas tree at sunset, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Some shells serve as a memorial to those who have passed on. (Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

(Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

(Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

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(Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Lori M. Nichols may be reached at lnichols@njadvancemedia.com. Follow Lori on Instagram at @photog_lori and Twitter @photoglori. Find NJ.com on Facebook.