Every calendar year ends with the month of December. My life actually began in that very same month. I was born in December of 1952. That year, 1952, Queen Elizabeth was crowned and Sir Edmund Hillary became the first man to climb Everest. Also, Ike was elected President.
December on the east end is special because of the huge holiday traditions. I enjoy the way the folks and the villages celebrate by decorating. The east end folks do an amazing job every year.
Driving after dark along Route 27 during December one can’t help but notice the numerous lighted Christmas trees in the various hamlets that line the roads. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing the massive windmills decorated with Christmas lights? I believe they are the unique symbol of Christmas in the Hamptons.
I was fortunate enough to have the assignment of the first lighting of the Montauk Lighthouse for the Montauk Pioneer. Every day that Fall while walking my dog at Camp Hero I watched the lights being attached to the lighthouse, but never did I imagine the effect they would have on the huge crowd that first lighthouse lighting night.
Walking the various village streets is magical with the smell of fresh cut pine and the glow of all those lights on all those trees along the sidewalk. Sometimes that cold winter ocean wind blows mightily at night in December. Every east ender knows the power and the bite of the cold winter winds. Sometimes the gloves and wool hats just do not adequately keep us warm. I remember walking my dog along the ocean beach when the wind just cut through my clothes.
The strange thing about December is the way it has two down periods built into it. The first, of course is at the beginning of the month that follows Thanksgiving weekend ending November. There is always a post-Thanksgiving reality. Many travel to see family on that day or have people travel to see them. Others reflect about missing family. Then afterwards life slowly goes back to normal until the Christmas party cycle starts. There was a time when I lived and worked in Manhattan that in December I attended as many as 12 pre-Christmas parties, some actually on my December 19th birthday. On one such December 19th it was the company party with a free bar and everyone wanted to do a shot with me. Only late into that evening did I realize the mistake I made saying yes to everyone.
Then there is the momentum that builds to Christmas, and then the second down period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. When you are a child you dream of what are you going to get for Christmas most of the first weeks of December. As a parent it is more of what will you get your children for Christmas and how much will all that eventually cost.
However, there is more to December on the east end than the holiday hoopla. The shortest sunlit days of the year happen in December and that has to affect folks differently, with 4:15 pm sunsets. Everyone spends more time in the dark doing things in December. Driving home from work in the dark seems to take longer.
December is the month when you realize whether your goals for that year will be reached or not. It’s a time when you reflect on how much money you have made, spent, and saved. The last two years have been Covid influenced. First I was afraid I might die if I caught it. Then I wondered if things would ever go back to normal. Now I know what the new normal may look like moving forward. I am more hopeful this December will be more celebratory than last year. There will be more parties, more safer gatherings, more open religious celebrations. Yet, in the end, December will have those cold, wet, days with short sunlight. It is on those days I truly miss my first warm day walking the beach with the sand feeling warm to my bare feet.