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This might be an unconventional opinion, but December is my favorite month on the North Fork. It’s cold yet beautiful. It’s quiet yet full of fun things to do. Picking out an evergreen right from the tree farm, drinking bubbly by the fire at Sparkling Pointe, attempting to buy the gingerbread ice cream at Magic Fountain and finding it’s already sold out: These are the traditions in my family that tell us the holidays are here. 

The ritual I have come to love most is the tree lighting. Or lightings, I should say: I’ve been known to crisscross the area in an attempt to catch the windy beachside lighting at Orient Beach State Park, the joyful party atmosphere in Greenport, small-town carols and hot cocoa on the Cutchogue Village Green and the whimsical New Suffolk sailboat lighting. Whatever the setting, there is something so special about that moment when the colorful lights blink on. 

You will have your own December rituals, of course. The diversity of our area means that the holidays on the North Fork look a little different in every home — a reality we’ve attempted to honor in the pages of this issue. 

For acclaimed chef and avid bowhunter Stephan Bogardus, December is a month to seek calm from high in a tree stand. For Yaralise Garcia, the baker behind Bori Bakes, it’s a time to make mantecaditos, the Puerto Rican shortbread cookies that remind her of relatives she won’t be able to travel to see this year. And for the Rev. Natalie Wimberly, pastor of the Clinton Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Greenport, the wind down of 2020 is a moment to preach listening in the hopes of racial reconciliation. 

No matter where or whether you worship, this month is an opportunity for understanding and grace. Appreciating the rituals of our neighbors, adapting them to our own, choosing local gifts and supporting local causes — this is how we build community. Because the thing that’s special about a tree lighting is not the size of the crowd or the wattage of the lights. It’s that we’ve chosen to gather in one spot, together in the cold, turning the darkness into celebratory light. 

Sara Austin

Editorial Director