With the holiday season upon us, the East End is awash in a blend of magic, wonder and cheer. Our villages and hamlets put on their holiday best, showing off before settling into their winter slumbers. Unique celebrations abound, providing ample opportunity for residents and visitors to create fantastical memories and yearly 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, as every tree along Main Street was wrapped in blue lights? They were charming and distinctive—they 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.
Perhaps as a tribute, each year on Three Mile Harbor Road one group of homeowners re-creates the rows of blue-lit trees along their street. Hopefully that tradition will continue, and new ones are born each year.
For example, Small Business Saturday, started in 2010 and held the Saturday after Thanksgiving, has taken off on the East End. Black Friday increasingly encroaches on Thanksgiving celebrations, with some big box stores opening as early as 6 a.m. on Thursday. (Although some businesses, like P.C. Richards, have taken public stands against opening on Thanksgiving Day.) Small Business Saturday was started by American Express, encouraging shoppers to support local businesses. This year, a number of seasonal festivities fall on November 30 as well, giving holiday shoppers another reason to head downtown to take part in celebratory, community-minded events.
East Hampton’s Menorahcade on November 30 commemorates the village’s third annual public menorah lighting. A parade of cars topped with giant menorahs will drive from Chabad Lubavitch of the Hamptons, at 13 Woods Lane, to the menorah lighting in Herrick Park.
Southampton has its own Parade of Lights each year, also falling on November 30 this season. 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. A holiday party with Santa follows at the Southampton Cultural Center, where light refreshments are served.
Downtown Southampton is transformed into a veritable winter wonderland as the season progresses, with small trees decorating Main Street and Jobs Lane. Southampton Country Holiday presents its annual “It’s a Wonderful Village” celebration from December 6–8. Enjoy a host of events throughout the village, including a three-day Christmas Marketplace at the Southampton Center. Peruse artisan crafts and a farmers market, and enjoy storytelling and holiday delights. On December 7, children young and old can enjoy horse and buggy rides that leave from the Chamber office and run down Main Street and Jobs Lane. The annual windmill lighting at Stony Brook Southampton will occur on December 6. Then, Saint Nick returns to the village for his annual visit to Rogers Memorial Library on December 14 from 2–4 p.m.
Also on November 30 is the annual lighting of the Montauk Lighthouse. The holiday celebration will include caroling and a visit from Santa. Clearly, St. Nick enjoys the holiday traditions on our narrow stretch of island. Parking and admission to the lighthouse grounds are free for the event. The celebrations continue the next day with Christmas at the Lighthouse. East Enders are invited free of charge to enjoy pony rides, hot cider, snacks and a “Ho! Ho! Ho!” from Santa. The Lighthouse gift shop will also be open for holiday shopping. A rain date for the lighting is scheduled for December 7; and a rain date for Christmas at the Lighthouse is December 8. The lights will grace New York’s oldest lighthouse every night until New Year’s Day.
Montauk Point on January 1 sees another tradition—the annual pilgrimage of Koreans and Korean-Americans to watch the first sunrise of the New Year. Korean culture calls for the first sunrise to be seen from the easternmost accessible point of land, and Koreans from Long Island and the New York metro area traditionally make the pre-dawn trip to Montauk Point to greet the sun and anticipate all that the New Year holds, as the lighthouse becomes awash in golden sunlight.
Santa returns to Montauk on December 8, when he visits the Montauk Firehouse. The visit is held in conjunction with Montauk’s Star Bright Lighting weekend, where businesses vie for the title of Best Decorated Montauk Business. By this point, Sweet’tauk’s second annual Handmade for the Holidays fair is well underway. Held every Saturday and Sunday until Christmas Eve at Sweet’tauk Lemonade, 34 South Etna Avenue, the fair features a variety of goods handmade by local artists.
On the North Fork, Greenport Village will host a tree lighting in Mitchell Park on November 29 at 5:30 p.m. Then, the Greenport Fire Department Christmas Parade will be on December 8 at 1 p.m. Christmas characters including Rudolph and Santa will make an appearance. The next weekend, Greenport will play host to another new tradition—Shellabration. This second annual event invites East Enders to keep it local by sampling and celebrating the freshly harvested Peconic Bay shellfish, deliciously paired with North Fork wine.
Also on December 7, 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. Later that evening, Jews and Christians celebrate the holidays together at the annual Christmas tree and menorah lighting ceremony on the Village Green. Caroling by the Westhampton Beach High School chorus and the Hampton Synagogue’s Youth Choir will fill the evening with the festive sounds of the season. Enjoy free hot cocoa and cookies. To top off the evening, Santa Claus arrives by fire truck.
East Hampton has its Santa Parade on December 7 this year, and Santa will greet children after the parade at the Huntting Inn on Main Street at around 11 a.m. The 24th Annual Holiday Tour of Inns, B&Bs and Special Places follows on December 14. Included on the tour is the famed Pollock-Krasner House in Springs. Local properties, dolled up for the holidays, will be open from noon until 4 p.m.
Sag Harbor also holds its annual windmill lighting on Long Wharf on December 7. Santa will visit the windmill the next day. New this year, Sag Harbor is promoting “The 12 Days of Christmas” from December 1–12, where shops feature various specials.
The annual Holiday Lighting of the Big Duck is held the first Wednesday after Thanksgiving each year, coincidently the same day the of the nationally televised Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting. Not that we’re biased or anything, but attending a duck lighting in person is a bit more quack-tastic and oh-so-Long Island.
A tradition three years in the making, the annual holiday window decorating contest in Riverhead has been canceled this year due to an influx of tenants downtown. An unexpected casualty in the efforts to revive the central business district, the annual event invited community members to decorate vacant windows to light up Main Street for the holiday season. But now, windows used in the past are filled or in the process of being filled by new stores, who are putting their own spin on holiday decorating.
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.
For more details and additional events, visit the DansPapers.com Calendar.