Enjoy the Festive Season at North Fork Holiday Lightings, Parades & More

North Fork holiday fun: A scene from Riverhead's annual holiday bonfire on the Peconic River
A scene from Riverhead’s annual holiday bonfire on the Peconic River.
Courtesy Riverhead BIDMA

The lights are up, the parties are planned, and family will be home soon. Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Chanukah or the winter solstice, this is a season of light, warmth and family.

Winter is a quieter season on the North Fork, but there is plenty to see and do to get in the spirit. This is when the North Fork hamlets put on their winter charm.

“I love all the lights, especially in Cutchogue,” says Kathy Hinsch of Southold. In a long-held tradition, all the buildings are silhouetted with simple white lights. “It reminds me of the simplicity of the season,” says Hinsch. Drive slowly through town or meander on foot to appreciate a step back in time.

Another thing Hinsch loves to do is holiday house tours. “It’s great for getting ideas,” she says.


This year, the Cutchogue Holiday House Tour (December 3) has stops at three inns, two wineries and a brewery, all decorated for the season. Each home features wine from a local vineyard or appetizers from a local restaurant. The self-guided tour ends at the Cutchogue tree lighting. In the spirit of the season, a portion of ticket sales go to two local nonprofits.

Tree lightings are a cherished tradition for many North Fork residents. Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council’s tree lighting has a historical focus on Christmas through the ages. The houses on the village green will be decorated historically: the Old House for a colonial Christmas, the Wickham house for a Victorian Christmas, and the school house for an early 1900s Christmas. Adding to the festivities, the Mattituck-Cutchogue High School select chorus will sing holiday songs, and Santa Claus arrives after the tree lighting.

If you’re craving a parade, head to Greenport’s Parade of Lights, where festive holiday-themed floats wind through the village to Mitchell Park for the tree lighting (December 3, 5–7 p.m). Afterwards, enjoy hot chocolate and ice skating at the rink in Mitchell Park.

The Mitchell Park skating rink in the Village of Greenport, photo: villageofgreenport.org

According to the Riverhead Business Improvement District, “Frosty temps are no match for Downtown Riverhead’s Annual Holiday Parade and Bonfire.” The parade loops south to the Peconic riverfront for the community bonfire. Enjoy free hot chocolate as the kids visit Santa in the Gingerbread House on December 10.

If you haven’t finished your holiday shopping, take advantage of the unique local shopping experiences, from Orient to Riverhead. The eagerly awaited Orient Historical Society Beach Plum holiday shop, located in the Old Point Schoolhouse (1555 Village Lane), has local gifts, ornaments, traditional crafts and games through December 17 (631-323-2480).

Or step back in time at Hallockville’s Naugles Barn, transformed into the Country Parlor folk art and gift show, with handcrafted gifts by local artisans (candles, soap and quilted, woven and knit items), November 25–27.

The East End Merry Market in Riverhead showcases local artists selling handmade goods. The event is held at The Suffolk with live music, hot cocoa, raffles and a visit from Santa on December 4.

If music is what gets you in the holiday spirit, don’t pass up the opportunity to go caroling. Head to Love Lane in Mattituck on December 17 for community caroling at 1:30 p.m. “This is a fun, casual event for all!” promises the North Fork Community Theatre (NFCT) website.

The Riverhead Business Improvement District’s annual holiday bonfire
The Riverhead Business Improvement District’s annual holiday bonfire, Photo: Courtesy Riverhead BID

There’s nothing like a live, local holiday show to savor this special time of year. The NFCT is performing One Christmas Eve at Evergreen Mall December 2–4 only, so don’t delay on getting your tickets. The play follows a cast of characters in eight intertwined stories on the last day of holiday shopping in a mall. According to the NFCT, “The play wraps the joys and sorrows of the season into one festive package.”

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, the next full moon is on Wednesday, December 7, at 11:08 p.m., and is known as the Cold Moon. Bundle up and head for a walk on your favorite beach or trail (you may not need a flashlight!) and enjoy the moon magic.

The Custer Institute in Southold, established in 1927, is Long Island’s oldest public observatory. Their website has a link to check the phase of the Moon (custerobservatory.org) and a reminder that “less moon equals darker skies,” which is what you need to see many deep sky objects. “But whether the Moon is just a sliver or full, it’s always great to see through our telescopes!” The institute is open to the public every Saturday night, 7 p.m. to midnight, for stargazing. Volunteer staff will guide your observations of the night sky. Dress for the weather!

The winter solstice on December 21 marks the shortest day of the year — the perfect time to celebrate a gradual return to longer days. For a uniquely North Fork solstice celebration, Jamesport Vineyards is hosting a wine and oyster tasting with live music, holiday recipes, and barrel tasting from 6–8 p.m. Enjoy oysters from Harvest Moon Shellfish Company.

For a decadent holiday dessert, the Baker’s Workshop (Main Street, Riverhead) offers pies, tortes, cupcakes and other seasonal desserts. The bakery gives Suffolk County Community College culinary students hands-on experience. It’s open through December 16.

And if you have been blessed in a year that has been unkind to so many, remember the proverb: “If you have more than you need, do not build a higher wall. Build a bigger table.” Food pantries and soup kitchens in the area are always in need of your donations, and the Center for Advocacy, Support and Transformation (CAST) is collecting new toys and wrapping paper to benefit those in need (drop off at bins or at the CAST office). Enjoy this special season!

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