01/05/11 11:21am
01/05/2011 11:21 AM

A new year is a time for new resolve, new hope and a fresh perspective. The last two years, I felt like New Year’s was just more of the same. This feeling began when my husband lost his 22-year position as a church administrator with the Diocese of Rockville Centre. The economic crash of 2008 swept into our home with the force of a tsunami.

At that same time, my youngest daughter, Johanna, born with a rare genetic disease causing malformations in her brain, was undergoing IV treatments for a systemic infection. I anxiously pondered how we would provide for this fragile life. While preparing for Johanna’s 75th surgery, we educated ourselves on unemployment, COBRA and life in these new economic times.

Our greatest financial concerns were health insurance and the mortgage. The COBRA subsidy of 2009 helped to provide the life-sustaining health insurance our daughter so desperately needs. The mortgage was a nightmare.

In 2006, in an effort to provide some breathing room with medical, household expenses and college bills, we entered into a mortgage that our broker explained was a relatively safe venture unless the economy and housing market crashed and you lost your job. Being short-sighted and exhausted from the crises surrounding our daughter’s illness, we blindly discounted those risks in favor of breathing room.

That “breathing room” quickly suffocated us as the “perfect storm” of economic disaster hit our home in November 2008. Early in 2009, we communicated our struggles to the bank, seeking a loan modification in an effort to secure the mortgage.

The process was frustrating from beginning to end. Lack of consistent bank personnel, lost paperwork and inaccurate notations on computer systems bred confusion. Every encounter started from square one. Unable to pay the mortgage on unemployment and COBRA, we continued our frantic communication with the bank. We secured the services of an attorney to walk us through the tumultuous waters of a loan modification. The law office kept us abreast of the endless paperwork and provided third-party verification for all communication with the bank.

In March, 2010, just weeks before my daughter had another brain surgery, my husband secured a great job as an administrator for a thriving business. Our home business was growing as well. We excitedly presented our attorney and the bank with the new numbers, hoping to secure the mortgage and our home.

Frustrations mounted as the paperwork continued. The only offer of updating our loan was to pay the ballooning arrears and re-enter this faulty loan, now in litigation in other states. Finally, the day after Thanksgiving, we received a denial for modification.

At wit’s end, I did what every writer would do; I wrote our story and sent it to friends, editors and co-workers. I even wrote a letter to Santa. I heard my essay crossed the desk of some Wells Fargo executives. I put my faith in Santa and a little baby born in a manger.

At that same time, an MRI confirmed that Johanna has a brain tumor unlike the malformations that have plagued her since birth. Surgery was scheduled for just after New Year’s, as we made plans to spend Christmas at home.

At 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, just before leaving for Mass, I received an unexpected call. It was a home preservation specialist from Wells Fargo wishing me a Merry Christmas. Emotions brewed as I considered this a cruel prank on this Holy Eve. As our conversation continued he explained that Wells Fargo would indeed be granting us a modification and the terms would be worked out in the coming weeks. They wanted us to know so we could celebrate a Merry Christmas. Stunned, I stuttered, “Thank you. And Merry Christmas to you.” As scenes from “It’s a Wonderful Life” emerged from my subconscious, the shock on my face and hysterical sobs caused my family to believe I received news someone had died. In fact, we came back to life Christmas Eve. After two years of fighting the death of our dreams, we offered thanks at the altar of God and left some extra cookies for Santa. God heard our prayer and surely Santa got my letter.

Johanna received a precious gift from a friend this Christmas. It’s a snow globe with Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” She keeps it by her side day and night. Johanna says, “When I am in the hospital, all I have to do is shake my snow globe and look at my ruby red slippers and say, ‘There’s no place like home.”

While 2011 presents us with new challenges for my daughter’s health; we are a family of new resolve, fresh perspective and new hope. We resolve to ride the waves of these tumultuous times and head for the shore, working hard to secure a future for our family here on the North Fork. Whether in the pediatric ICU or on the porch in Jamesport, we will endure and thrive because truly there is no place like home.

Ms. Benthal is a community columnist covering Jamesport and Aquebogue for Times/Review Newsgroup.

12/24/10 7:00am
12/24/2010 7:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Lexi Leonard, Joey Stuckart and Billy Stuckart have fun building a gingerbread house.

Baking cookies seems to be a universal holiday tradition that spans all religions, cultures and customs. Whether it’s gingerbread men and houses; sweet, sugary stars of David; or crunchy, nutty fall leaves, baking cookies brings families and friends together to create treasured memories. Try these time-tested recipes with the youngsters — and the young at heart — in your family.

Ice-Box Cookies
A festive tin or gaily wrapped box of ice-box cookies makes a great take-along treat for any holiday party, and they’re sure to be welcomed at a cookie exchange. You can prepare the dough ahead of time and freeze it, tightly sealed, for up to six months. When it’s time to make the cookies, just cut and bake, and you’re ready to go!
1 cup melted butter
1 lb. brown sugar
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
In a large bowl, pour melted butter over sugar and mix in eggs. Combine flour, salt and baking soda. Add flour mixture to butter, sugar and egg mixture and add in vanilla and pecans; mix well. Shape dough into logs and wrap in waxed paper. Chill overnight or at least 6 hours. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375° F. Slice cookies 1/4-inch thick and bake for 10 minutes or until the center doesn’t flatten when gently pressed down.
Makes about 9 dozen cookies.

Sugar Cookies
These traditional sugar cookies can take any shape your heart desires: pumpkins, wreaths, even a menorah!
3 cups powdered sugar
2 cups butter or margarine, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cream of tartar
In a large bowl, beat powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and almond extracts and eggs with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix thoroughly with spoon. Stir in flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Heat oven to 375° F. Lightly grease cookie sheet. Divide dough in half. On lightly floured surface, roll each half 1/8-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes with 3-inch cookie cutters. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake 5-7 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes. Decorate cookies with glaze, icing and/or other decorations as desired.
Makes about 8 dozen cookies.

Gingerbread Cookies
This basic gingerbread recipe can make gingerbread men, houses or even fall leaves. Only your imagination can limit what this versatile recipe can create!
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups dark molasses
2/3 cup cold water
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
In a large bowl, stir together brown sugar, shortening, molasses and water. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Heat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease cookie sheet. On floured surface, roll dough 1/8-inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters dipped in flour. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes or until no indentation remains when lightly pressed. (For a softer, chewier cookie, bake 8-10 minutes.) Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes, then decorate as desired.
Makes about 9 dozen cookies.

12/23/10 1:42pm
12/23/2010 1:42 PM

The annual Christmas gift and food drive run by members of the Riverhead PBA culminated Thursday morning with the packaging of all the goods collected throughout the drive.


The holidays will be a little brighter for 30 needy families from across town, from Wading River to Jamesport, thanks to the holiday drive. PBA President Dixon Palmer (far left) and the union’s vice president, police officer Chris Parkin, organized this year’s efforts. They were joined Thursday at the town’s municipal garage to package the toys and turkey dinners with all the trimmings to deliver to the families. They were joined by Riverhead High School Principal David Zimbler (far right) and Riverhead students, as well as students from McGann-Mercy and Shoreham Wading River high schools. The Riverhead PBA has been running the holiday drive for 15 years.

12/22/10 12:14pm
12/22/2010 12:14 PM

There are four stages of a man’s life:

1) He believes in Santa Claus.
2) He doesn’t believe in Santa Claus.
3) He is Santa Claus.
4) He looks like Santa Claus.

I’m hovering between 3 and 4, edging ever closer to a full 4. Which has its obvious drawbacks, but it’s still a good thing as I’m particularly fond of the Christmas season. It’s a sensory delight, what with the lights, the sounds, the smells, the sitting around in torn sweats and mismatching socks dunking those Danish butter cookies that come in 100-gallon drums into a mixing bowl of eggnog throughout the 24-hours “Christmas Story” movie marathon.

OK, I made up that last part. No, seriously.

There’s also the socializing, the great food, some time off. (I left out “much deserved” because that’s, well, a given. Duh.)
What’s not to like about all that?

OK, you got me there. Sure, there’s crushing credit card debt, crazed crowds of angst-ridden shoppers, the relentless rush-rush-rush, post-party mornings of a pounding head and cottonmouth. I read about that last part in, ah, the paper one Sunday morning before heading straight off to church.

I’ve been described as an overgrown kid and won’t deny it. Aging is mandatory, maturity optional. Were I a counselor/analyst — granted, an unnerving and disconcerting notion on so many levels — I might opine that, for those who follow it, the Christmas experience allows us to reconnect with our inner child. In so doing, we draw deeply from the well of long-submerged feelings of safety, security, familial love, innocent excitement and that all-too-elusive sense of wonder.

Not to mention socially acceptable avarice. (Hey! How come Dennis and Mary got more gifts than me! No fair!)

It rekindles warm and wonderful memories, like me Ma tripping in the dining room and sending a full baking dish of ravioli and tomato sauce flying. Seemed hilarious at the time. Well, not to her, obviously.

Of staring at me aged granddad, in his chair sleeping and snoring, his mouth open but his dentures closed. (Also hilarious. Not to him when he’d wake up and catch us.)

Of the fully decorated Christmas tree toppling over onto me Ma’s cousin during dinner and a brother exclaiming “tim-ber!” (Hilarious squared.)

Of learning the heart-wrenching truth about St. Nick and in a fit of rage sharing the news with little brother, who couldn’t have cared less.

That, right there, foreshadowed the day when he’d become an attorney.

Come to think of it, Clue Number 2 came some years later as the two of us stood in the bushes below baby sister’s second-story bedroom window one bone-chilling Christmas Eve, shaking jingle bells until our clattering teeth drowned out the happy sound.
Just as we were about to retire to the living room, then ablaze with the glorious glow of a burning yule log — televised in black and white — he shouted, “Ho, ho, ho! Meeeeeeeeery Christ-mas!”

“You idiot!,” I whispered, no doubt punching and/or pushing him. “Now she’s gonna know for sure it was us! Nice going, jerk.”
“Nah,” he said quite cool, calm and collected. “She’ll never know the difference.”

Turns out he was right, but that’s entirely beside the point.

That may have been the first time I’ve played Santa, sort of, but certainly not the last. I’ve got a version of that red and white suit, complete with the black vinyl boot tops, and have worn it at home, at friends’, even a Town Hall Christmas party or two. Can honestly say I’ve had a couple of supervisors sit on Santa’s lap. No, I’m not bragging.

“What? You want me to believe that you’ve been especially good this year? How much have you had to drink?”

The suit, admittedly swiped from a friend a couple of decades ago, is, sad to say, showing its years. So much so that the Mrs. warned me against wearing it to this year’s company Christmas gathering, lest she engage the services of that selfsame attorney brother in a matrimonial action. Then she made some sort of cockamamy comparison to Billy Bob Thornton in “Bad Santa.” For the life of me I don’t know what she’s getting at.

So absent being served with a writ of some kind, I’ll probably don the suit — perhaps for the last time — Friday evening and do my Santa shtick again.

What a wonderful time, unless of course the Mrs. hands me the phone and says something like, “It’s your brother, and he said it’s imperative that he talk with you. Now.”

Tell him I’m busy, and add these three words: “Naughty list and coal.”

12/21/10 8:57pm
12/21/2010 8:57 PM

BARBARELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Bobby Goodale holds a bank envelope like the one he inadvertently mailed $900 in last week at the Post Office on West Main Street. The money was returned.

Just two weeks before Christmas, Bobby Goodale had an “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment involving a large sum of cash.

And just as in that classic holiday film, there’s a happy ending.

In the film, the Uncle Billy character misplaces $8,000 in cash while chatting in a bank. Truth to tell, Old Man Potter, the bank president, finds it and keeps it.

In this case, Mr. Goodale, the chairman of the Board of Directors at Peconic Bay Medical Center, misplaced a bank envelope containing nine $100 bills at the Riverhead post office. And on Wednesday, a postal employee delivered the envelope, complete with all nine bills, to Mr. Goodale’s Flanders home.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Mr. Goodale said. “Now I owe something to the post office.”

After going to the bank to cash a $900 check, Mr. Goodale had headed to the post office to mail several hundred party invitations and 10 or so bill payments. He put the cash, still in an open envelope, and the bill payments on his front seat. When he reached the post office, he picked up two boxes holding the invitations and the other envelopes and, as he discovered later, the cash.

All of it went into the mail.

About an hour later he realized what had happened and went back to the post office, only to be told that all the mail had already been shipped up-island. A clerk took his name and number, but made no promises.

“It was in an open envelope with no name on it,” Mr. Goodale said. “It could have ended up anywhere or someone could have walked off with it. I thought I had lost the whole thing.”

But the next day the post office called to say they’d found the money, and he had it back in his hands the day after that.
“What a nice Christmas present,” Mr. Goodale said. “It is a wonderful life.”


12/16/10 4:31pm
12/16/2010 4:31 PM

Our annual listing of special services and events at local churches


Old Steeple Church
Sunday, Dec. 19: Children’s Christmas pageant, 10 a.m.
Friday, Dec. 24: Christmas Eve service of carols and candlelight, 8 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 26: Worship and hymn sing, 10 a.m.
Sunday, Jan. 2: Worship and holy communion, 10 a.m.

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
Friday, Dec. 24: Christmas Eve service, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 25: Christmas Day service, 10 a.m.
Friday, Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve service, 7 p.m.

Manorville Community Church
Friday, Dec. 24: Christmas Eve service, 7 p.m.

Calvary Baptist Church
Sunday, Dec. 19: Children’s Christmas program, 10:50 a.m.
Friday, Dec. 24: Christmas Eve candlelight service, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 26: Morning worship service, 10:50 a.m.
Friday, Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve game night, 8 p.m. to midnight

Church of the Harvest
Friday, Dec. 24: Christmas Eve service, 7 p.m.
First Baptist Church of Riverhead
Sunday, Dec. 19: 26th annual Christmas concert, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 25: Christmas morning worship service, 11 a.m.
Friday, Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve ‘Watch Night’ service, 10 p.m.

First Congregational Church
Sunday, Dec. 19: Children’s Christmas pageant, 10 a.m.
Friday, Dec. 24: Family Christmas Eve service, 7 p.m.; candlelight service, 11 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 26: Service, 10 a.m.; Christmas dinner at no charge by Bread and More Inn, 1 p.m.

First Parish Church UCC
Saturday, Dec. 18: An afternoon of music during Advent, 2 to 4:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 24: Family candle-lighting service, 7 p.m.

Friendship Baptist Church
Sunday, Dec. 19: Cantata service, 11 a.m.
Sunday, Dec. 26: Kwanzaa program, 3 p.m.

Galilee church of god in Christ
Sunday, Dec. 19: Youth Christmas program, 4 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 25: Free hot dinners, toys and clothing items, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the fellowship hall
Friday, Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve service, 11 p.m.

Grace Episcopal Church
Saturday, Dec. 25: Christmas Mass, 10:30 a.m.

House of Praise Christain Revival Center
Wednesday, Dec. 22: Caroling with the Riverhead High School Chamber Singers and local talent, 6:30 p.m.

Living Water Full Gospel Church
Friday, Dec. 24: Christmas Eve candlelight service, 7 p.m.

Riverhead United Methodist Church
Sunday, Dec. 19: Dressing of the Creche, 10 a.m.
Friday, Dec. 24: Family candlelight Christmas Eve service, 7 p.m.; candlelight communion Christmas Eve service, 11 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 25: Blue Christmas service (English and Spanish), 10 a.m.
Sunday, Dec. 26: Worship service, 10 a.m.
Sunday, Jan. 2: Worship service, 10 a.m.

St. John the Evangelist R.C. Church
Friday, Dec. 24: Christmas Eve Mass, 4, 7 and 9 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 25: Christmas Day Mass, 9 and 11 a.m., 7 p.m. (Spanish)

St. Anselm’s Episcopal Church
Friday, Dec. 24: Christmas Eve services, noon (Spanish), 3 and 4:30 p.m. (children’s pageant), 8 p.m. (sung Mass with choir, musicians) and 10 p.m. (traditional midnight Mass).
Saturday, Dec. 25: Solemn High Mass of the Holy Nativity, 10 a.m.

St. Mark R.C. Church
Friday, Dec. 24: Christmas Eve Mass, 4 and 6 p.m. and midnight.
Saturday, Dec. 25: Christmas Day Mass, 8, 9:30 and 11:30 a.m.

Wading River
North Shore United Methodist Church
Friday, Dec. 24: Christmas Eve family service, 5 p.m.; Candlelight service, 9 p.m.

Wading River Congregational CHURCH
Friday, Dec. 24: Christmas Eve candlelight services, 6 and 8 p.m.

12/13/10 11:44am
12/13/2010 11:44 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The main living room of the Goodale's home with an 'Angel' Christmas tree overlooking Reeves Bay in Flanders.

Dhonna Goodale typically starts putting up the Christmas displays at her Flanders home at the end of September. Even with a small army of five to six people to help she’s not usually finished decorating until the end of November.

And that’s for a reason.

Elaborate displays around the home include no less than five life-size Santas, a giant winking moose, enough poinsettia plants to fill a greenhouse, an immense wreath and angels, angels and more angels.

“I love angels,” Ms. Goodale beamed during a recent tour of her home. “They make me happy.”

While it takes two months to put up all her Christmas displays, it takes Ms. Goodale even longer to take them down. She tends to leave her holiday exhibits up until the middle of March and doesn’t hold her Christmas party until late January.

“I do it that way because I don’t want to compete with all those other parties,” she said proudly. “I work too hard on these displays and I want people to come and take it all in.”

Among those wondrous and elaborate bits of eye candy – there’s also lots of real candy – are no less than four themed Christmas trees, which include a money tree and a boys’ tree dedicated to her two sons, Jesse, 12, and Jared, 10.

The boys’ tree is bedazzled with tiny elves, huge Hershey candy bars, oversized caramel corn, bubble gum, a rocking horse and a sleigh. Ms. Goodale also has an admittedly self-indulgent girl’s tree, which features Barbie dolls, clothes, candy and credit cards.
“What more does a girl need?” Ms. Goodale chuckled, noting that she had never had a Barbie doll until she married her husband, Bobby. “My mother would always buy me cheap Barbie knockoffs,” she added, “so when I got married, the first thing I did was buy myself a real Barbie.”

But the grandest and most touching of Ms. Goodale’s trees, which sits in a stately upper floor living room overlooking Reeve’s Bay, is her “angel tree.” Standing roughly eight feet tall, the tree is a tight, intricate, Victorian puzzle of ornate angel dolls and dazzling poinsettia leaves.

It takes Ms. Goodale roughly a month to construct the elaborate tree, which features photos of her recently deceased mother-in-law, Mary Goodale, 92, and her late dog Spot, being held by separate angels. Despite her heartache, Ms. Goodale forged on with her yearly tradition of decking her halls.

“Decorating makes me feel good,” she said. “After my mother-in-law passed away – a woman who treated me like she’d given birth to me – I just threw myself into it.”

Ms. Goodale has been assembling her quirky Christmas collection of ornaments and displays since she married Mr. Goodale 16 years ago.

Mr. Goodale lovingly shakes his head when he looks at all the displays covering his massive home, which had been a small cottage when he lived in it as a bachelor years ago. Lightly admitting that he would never have expanded his home nor ever decorated it if he hadn’t gotten married, Mr. Goodale smiles when he looks at what has become his wife’s dream home.

“It’s her house, she just allows me to live here as long as I pay the bills,” Mr. Goodale chuckled. “But I love it. She’s made the house into a very special place, especially at this time of year.”

Mr. Goodale adds that he is somewhat confused as to why his spouse would go to all the trouble of putting up so many decorations each year at their isolated home.

“Who the heck is going to see it?” Mr. Goodale shrugs with a smile.

“I am!” Ms. Goodale responds boldly. “I like looking at it. It makes me happy.”

The two-story home is a giant labyrinth of rooms, each with its own theme and personality. An avid shopper, Ms. Goodale said she has furnished most the house mostly with items found at Home Goods/T.J. Maxx.

But she admits she’s not above doing some occasional dumpster diving to rescue a unique item, which the registered mortician and make-up artist lovingly restores.

“I’m a dumpster diva,” she laughed heartily.

The house also features a modest movie theater, complete with cushy theater style seats, a stately library, various living rooms, most with well-stocked bars, a recreation room, which features a 1950s style juke box, slot machines, an arcade style pac-man game, a pool table, a bar, a Cadillac love seat, complete with taillights that light up, and dozens of security cameras to keep an eye on it all.

“When we have our parties, roughly a thousand of our closest friends, things have gotten stolen,” Ms. Goodale said, noting that those parties, which often include close friends such as divas Patty LaBelle and Roberta Flack, also have undercover detectives as guests.

The Goodales host their yearly by-invitation-only Christmas party as a way of saying thank-you to people who help out with their yearly scholarship drive in honor of her sister, Tara, who was murdered seven years ago at the age of 25 by her jealous husband.

The fundraiser consists of a massive summer party in their backyard, which offers a full basketball court, a small golf course, a giant chess game and live music from some of the entertainment world’s hottest performers.

“This whole holiday season is all about the birth of Jesus,” Ms. Goodale said. “It’s not about fitting Jesus or God conveniently into your life. We only use God when we need him, but for me it’s a way of life.”

12/09/10 1:12pm
12/09/2010 1:12 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The 10th annual 2009 Holiday Bonfire on the Peconic riverfront sponsored by Riverhead Town and the Riverhead BID Management Association.

Shopping and the holidays can’t help but go hand-in-hand. North Fork business organizations, always eager to have residents shop locally, are playing an important role in planning events to draw shoppers to the region’s commercial centers.

The Village of Greenport’s Business Improvement District has embarked on its second annual Greenport Holiday Festival, a monthlong series of parades, festivities and a fireworks show designed to encourage people to visit the port town during the Christmas shopping season.

Riverhead and Cutchogue are planning holiday events, too. There will be the annual bonfire and Santa’s visit in downtown Riverhead, this year on Saturday, Dec. 11, and the North Fork Chamber of Commerce will again host a helicopter visit from Santa to kids at the Cutchogue Fire Department, this year on Sunday, Dec. 12.

The Mattituck Chamber of Commerce had decorated the business district and held its annual Santa visit last weekend.
The Greenport Festival, the most extensive holiday event on the North Fork, is a regional draw. “Businesses really need bolstering and boosting in the winter months,” said one of the festival’s organizers, Caroline Waloski, who owns Sirens’ Song Gallery on Main Street. “All of us would like to see it a little more lively here.”

On Dec. 12, a parade with Santa Claus will begin at the firehouse in Greenport. A historic tour of the village is scheduled for Dec. 19 and an architectural tour is on the agenda Dec. 11.

Santa Claus will visit the Little Red School House on Dec. 11 and 18 from 1 to 3 p.m. and there will be winter games in Mitchell Park on Dec. 18. The East End Seaport Museum is hosting free movies throughout the season. A fireworks extravaganza and party in the carousel in Mitchell Park are planned for New Year’s Eve.

Greenport galleries are also participating in the promotion, with special shows to highlight the holiday season.

Front Street Station, a restaurant on Front Street, will be giving away hot chocolate to kids. Mulled wine can be enjoyed for free at Scrimshaw on the wharf behind Preston’s, and Greenport Wines and Spirits will be holding free wine tastings.
More information on all the events is available at greenportholidays.com.

Ms. Waloski said that the promotion seems to be catching on this year, after more than 300 people crowded into Mitchell Park the weekend after Thanksgiving for the tree lighting. Last year, she said, only a trickle of people attended the tree lighting.

“This year it was just mobbed. On a cold windy night, there were still lots of people,” she said.

The Riverhead Business Improvement District has been holding an annual bonfire in the parking lot behind Main Street by the river for 11 years, during which Santa Claus comes down the river by boat. Ed Densieski, a former Riverhead town councilman, has run the event since the beginning.

“We were looking for something cool to happen downtown in the wintertime,” he said. “The bonfire is one of the coolest things that happens in downtown Riverhead. When Santa comes up by boat, waves magic dust at the tree and it lights up and you’re looking at kids’ expressions, it’s perfect.”

Though downtown Riverhead has suffered for several years with a swath of empty storefronts on Main Street, Mr. Densieski said that the opening of several new restaurants downtown helps to make the area a destination for dining, at the very least.

The event begins at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11. Santa arrives at 5 p.m., and holiday revelers often stay until the last ember of the fire burns out well into the night.

The town’s buildings and grounds department sets up the bonfire and volunteers run the event, which includes free hot chocolate, candy canes and face painting for kids.

This coming Sunday will see another holiday tradition that has continued for more than a decade, when the North Fork Chamber of Commerce hosts Santa Claus’ arrival by helicopter at Cutchogue Fire Department.

The event begins with a magic show at the fire department at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 12, followed by Santa’s arrival at 10:30 a.m. Santa then goes to Cutchogue-New Suffolk Library, where kids can get their picture taken and will receive a gift.
“We are not just strictly business. We try to have community events,” said North Fork Chamber of Commerce president Joe Corso. “We have a lot of business owners whose kids are in the community and we also try to do things to bring people into the village that are not just business oriented. We bring people in and hope they poke around in the shops while they’re here and come back in the future.”

The Mattituck Chamber of Commerce last week held its annual visit from Santa Claus at the Waldbaum’s Shopping Center. Every year, the event includes a free movie at the Mattituck Cinema.

“It’s almost as old as Santa now. We’ve been doing it a long time,” said Mattituck Chamber of Commerce president Terry McShane. “We also have a shop local campaign, encouraging people to support the businesses who support you all year.

We put Christmas trees throughout Mattituck. It beautifies the town and also shows which stores are Mattituck Chamber-related.”

The group also decorates Love Lane for the holidays.

“We’re a small group of people but everybody plays a part in encouraging people to shop more locally,” he said.