Just when those winter doldrums begin creeping in, the holiday season brings its special blend of magic, wonder and cheer to the East End. The region comes alive as our unique communities and diverse population—and centuries of history—join to create a celebratory patchwork of fun and exciting traditions.
Some holiday traditions endure in the Hamptons, while others fall away with the passage of time and the shifting cultural and economic landscape. Who remembers all the years when East Hampton stood out among the local hamlets and villages at Christmastime? Remember when every tree along Main Street was wrapped in blue lights? They were charming and distinctive—they literally cast the village in a different light than those with white or multicolored bulbs. Today, Town Pond holds the last lonely bastion of that bygone time—one little tree holding its blue vigil for days past in the center. East Hampton’s Main Street has gone mainstream in the lights department.
Perhaps as a tribute, each year on Three Mile Harbor Road one group of homeowners recreates the rows of blue-lit trees along their street. Hopefully that tradition will continue.
Gone too is the Christmas shop in East Hampton, where local shoppers could buy all manner of personalized ornaments for family, friends and even pets. Still, no matter what is gone, so much remains. And wonderful new traditions are created every year.
For example, who could resist “Menorahcade” on December 8 this year? To celebrate East Hampton’s second annual public menorah lighting—another excellent new local tradition—a parade of 15-30 cars topped with giant menorahs will drive from Chabad Lubavitch of the Hamptons, at 13 Woods Lane, to the menorah lighting in Herrick Park. It’s very likely this tradition will endure in the coming years.
Southampton has its own Parade of Lights each year on the first Saturday in December. A long line of decorated fire trucks begins at Windmill Lane and drives around the Village to Agawam Park for the annual Christmas tree lighting and caroling by Voices of Southampton High School. Immediately following the lighting ceremony, the Southampton Cultural Center has its annual holiday party with refreshments and Santa Claus at the Levitas Center For the Arts.
Saint Nick returns to Southampton for his annual visit to Rogers Memorial Library the following week.
On the first Saturday of December in Westhampton Beach, Jews and Christians celebrate the holidays together at the annual Christmas tree and menorah lighting ceremony on the Village Green. Appropriately Sponsored by the Hamptons Interfaith Council, the Chamber of Commerce and others, the joyful gathering includes free cookies, cocoa and potato latkes, caroling by the Westhampton Boys Choir and the Hampton Synagogue’s Youth Choir, and Santa arriving by fire engine.
The following week, Westhampton holds its annual Holiday WinterFest where participants can ride the Westhampton Beach Holiday Trolley to events around the Village. Among the many activities and attractions, local stores host kids’ craft stations and holiday treat stations, carolers wander the streets and Santa and Mrs. Claus entertain with stories and fun.
East Hampton has its Santa Parade on December 1 this year, while the 23rd Annual Holiday Tour of Inns, B&Bs and Special Places, and the annual Holiday Strolls through East Hampton Village and Amagansett follow on December 8.
Sag Harbor also holds its annual tree lighting on Long Wharf below the windmill, which is always lit beautifully, the first Saturday in December.
On the North Fork, Greenport Village has come up with a creative way to celebrate the holidays and support local businesses. Merchants participating in the 12 Days of Christmas Shopping and Dining Event, from December 13 to the 24th, will interpret the 12 days of Christmas according to the beloved carol, and offer promotions and specials to coincide with each day in the song. On day one, stores and restaurants will offer sales somehow related to “a partridge in a pear tree.” This should be fun for everyone involved.
It would be impossible to attend all of the holiday events and attractions on the East End, so find some favorites and enjoy them year after year. It’s how family traditions are born.