On Monday, October 30, the owners of Montauk’s Naturally Good Foods and Cafe woke up to the news that, overnight, their business—along with some local food trucks and street signs—had been defaced with antisemitic graffiti. The photos were shocking: a giant swastika had been painted on the cafe’s front door; the German phrase for ‘Jews Die’ was spray painted on their fencing.
This is the atmosphere—even out here, in Montauk—in which we are receiving the holidays this year. How are any of us supposed to celebrate?
There’s war in the Middle East; there’s war in Ukraine. Recently, there were all the trappings and sorrows of war in a bowling alley and bar up in Lewiston.
It is challenging, under these circumstances, to get excited for the festive days to come. We worry about our friends, our families, our children. We worry about our finances, our homes and our communities. We worry about climate change and mental health and gun control. And still, come December, we are expected to celebrate.
Montauk shows us how. Mere hours after the discovery of that heinous graffiti, the hamlet hosted a ‘Love Rally’ to denounce the hatred that had briefly infected their community and to celebrate instead all of the love and diversity that knits together its residents and visitors alike—all of different cultures, ethnicities and religions—to create their rich and beautiful town.
The stories we’ve collected for you in this issue similarly celebrate love and connection in spite of our increasingly angry, disconnected world. On the North Fork, CAST provides low-income individuals and families with local produce and teaches them how to prepare it. Spoiler alert: There are some truly spectacular, if unusual, latkes involved. On the South Fork, the Hampton Bays community bands together to support and celebrate the small businesses that make the hamlet a destination worth visiting all year. Family baking traditions persist, and even embrace the next generation, at Loaves and Fishes in Sagaponack, and distillers from Montauk to Mattituck utilize their time, talent and treasure to make our spirits bright even amid our age’s overwhelming darkness.
These stories remind me that, at the center of the two major holidays we celebrate in December—Hanukkah and Christmas—are miracles. Eight nights of light when there was only enough oil for one. A savior born to a virgin mother. Can our collective rejection of hatred, and persistent celebration of love, be another?
As I bake gingerbread cookies with my two-year-old son this Christmas—our last as a family of three, before our daughter arrives in 2024—this will certainly be my prayer. Not that we forget the problems of our world, but that we vigorously remember them; and that, somehow, we persist in loving this world and all its hideous inhabitants anyway.
That defiance could really be something to celebrate. That single, small miracle could really turn this holiday season around.
Wishing you and yours the happiest, most loving holidays,