The big feast is soon to arrive — and with it the spectacle and delights of the festive season ahead. Before we settle in for that Thanksgiving gathering with family and friends, step out and explore some of the holiday-themed events nearby.
Early on in our nation’s history, Native Americans handed down time-honored practices involved in rejoicing over nature’s bounty at harvest time — even though it certainly wasn’t Thanksgiving as we know it. Yet, there was plenty of feasting and festivities as these early Americans gathered to commemorate their harvest before settling in for the approaching winter.
An annual holiday event — a popular long-standing tradition — honors the spirit and traditions of Long Island’s early residents at Garvies Point Museum and Preserve, timed to coincide with Thanksgiving. This weekend’s festival, Nov. 18-19, gives visitors a deep dive into the lifestyle of those early Americans through varied activities — both indoors and out.
Everyone can participate in tool and pottery-making, and spear-throwing using the atlatl (a spear-throwing tool). Also experience natural clay and pottery making. Primitive fire building (without matches!) and some on-site campfire cooking are among other activities always enjoyed by all who take part.
Visitors can sample some authentic native foods and learn about the process of creating “dugout” canoes. In addition, see an authentic reproduction of a wigwam, always a favorite with kids and parents.
Families can also learn about the process of creating “dugout” canoes, along with corn grinding and storytelling (at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m.) with Chief Redfeather of eastern Long Island’s Montaukett tribe. Also check out displays of artifacts from the museum collection, and the authentic reproduction of a wigwam, always a favorite with kids and parents.
While there, the museum’s permanent exhibits — which showcase Long Island’s Native American culture and archaeology, as well as the geology of Long Island and New York state — are also worth visiting, as are the preserve’s nature trails. The newest exhibit, “Art of the Zuni Fetish,” is a must-see, according to museum director Veronica Natale.
“These small, hand-carved animal figurines are made of varying stone types, and each animal has its own meaning,” she says. “They are adorable in-person.”
The enchanting holiday extravaganza that first arrived here last year returns to Long Island, illuminating Eisenhower Park throughout the holiday season, Thursday through Monday, 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Visitors will be immersed in an array of light displays, lanterns, and interactive art installations that make up LuminoCity’s Wonder Journey. Among the highlights? See multiple illuminating sculptures in Jocelyn’s Garden and Chiaozza’s Forest, designed by internationally renowned artists Jocelyn Tsaih and Chiaozza.
“Lantern festivals have long been a tradition in Asian culture, especially during the holidays,” producer Amber Cao says. “We want to recreate that tradition and share it with everyone. We’re excited to translate our tradition into creating an unforgettable holiday experience.”
Laster lights, music, and even a smoke machine add to the experience — what Cao describes as a “magical space.” The beloved story “Alice in Wonderland” adds a wondrous component to the light display. Visitors encounter iconic scenes from the Wonderland Tea Party, to the butterfly seat, and a life-sized Queen’s Castle where adults and kids can slide down the Queen of Heart’s massive slide.
Cao and her team also partnered with Long Island Children’s Museum for what’s defined as an “underwater experience” that showcases displays of underwater sea creatures designed by local children.
“We seek out community collaborations that offer our visitors unique opportunities to showcase their creativity as they learn about cultural traditions,” says Erika Floreska, museum president.
The collaboration between LuminoCity and LICM includes a concurrent exhibit at LICM detailing the process of turning 2D drawings into the illuminated lanterns on display and exploring the art of lantern making.
“We’re excited that thousands of families will be able to see our visitors’ ideas realized as 3D lanterns during the festival,” Floreska says.
Light sculptures in the Mystical Jellyfish Forest, Ship and Dolphin Lagoon, Giant Whale Tail, Imaginary Sea Creature and Fiddler Crab were designed by children who participated in a hands-on workshop at the museum. Their 2D artwork was submitted for an opportunity to be brought to life in 3D.
Winners range from 5 to 11 years old.