When the president of Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, Neal Fagan, was a young kid, he would receive one silver dollar from his grandfather for Hanukkah.
Mr. Fagan said he would also get Hanukkah gelt, which is the chocolate version of ancient coins used as money. Eating potato pancakes, called latkes, and jelly donuts, and playing the game of dreidel—with a spinning top—were also the high points of the eight-day holiday. There was no glitz or glam involved.
But that no longer seems to be the case, Mr. Fagan said. Instead, he said, children are more excited about the eight days of gifts that the holiday brings.
“My 11-year-old grandson can’t wait to rip off the wrapping paper,” Mr. Fagan said. “It is tough for me to get him to stand still to light the candles.”
The candles, of course, are the most important part of the Hanukkah celebration. The menorah, or Hanukkah candelabra, has eight candles to be lighted, starting with one on the first evening of the holiday. Another candle is lighted each night for the remainder of the holiday to represent the miracle of one day’s worth of oil lasting for eight days when the Temple of Jerusalem was rededicated to the Jews,
Even latkes, which are intentionally cooked in an abundance of oil, also to represent the Hanukkah miracle, have lost their significance to many children. That is because Hanukkah now competes with Christmas, which is usually less than a few weeks away, Mr. Fagan said.
“I like the holiday and I like latkes and candles, but it has really become overly commercial, and most kids haven’t got a clue and aren’t even as interested as they are in getting presents every day,” he said.
Despite the commercialization, the East End over the past decade has started to offer more Hanukkah-related activities, especially because there are now synagogues and Jewish community centers in almost every village, including East Hampton and Southampton.
Mr. Fagan noted that some shops in Sag Harbor Village are adorned with menorahs this season. “Twenty years ago you could hardly get a challah out here,” Mr. Fagan said, referring to the bread traditionally eaten on the Jewish sabbath and on holidays.
This year, the first Hanukkah candles were lighted on Sunday night, December 6, and the last will be on December 13. Local synagogues will have public menorah lightings and ceremonies, often with latkes and donuts for those who attend.
Several events took place on the first night of Hanukkah—a menorah lighting at Kirk Park in Montauk, a Hanukkah party and holiday bazaar at Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, and a community menorah lighting at the windmill in Sag Harbor Village.
At the Jewish Center of the Hamptons in East Hampton on Wednesday, December 9, there will be a party from 5 to 6 p.m. with lots of Hanukkah treats. In Southampton at 3:15 p.m. on December 11, there will be a menorah lighting at the corner of Jobs Lane and Main Street. In East Hampton at 6:30 p.m. on December 12, a Menorahcade will depart from the Chabad of East Hampton on Woods Lane and end at Herrick Park for a menorah lighting at 7 p.m. After that, there will be a Hanukkah party at the East Hampton Middle School.
The Chabad in Southampton, or Southampton Jewish Center, is hosting its annual Hanukkah party at 6:30 p.m. on December 12 at the Southampton Cultural Center. This year, the party is slightly different in light of recent world events: It is dedicated to the people of Israel, France and the United States.