The Norway spruce that decorates Rockefeller Center this year is 74-foot tall; it is decorated in 30,000 colored lights and topped with a Swarovski star. Though the Rockefeller Christmas tree looks similar from year to year, give or take a few feet in height, each tree to have graced the plaza has told a different story of its origin. The 2011 tree was not selected per the usual application process, as it was scouted by the Rockefeller Center’s head gardener on a property in Mifflinville, PA whilst driving along the I-80 freeway. The tree now stands proudly in the middle of Manhattan, admired not only by its owners (albeit in a different light) but also by throngs of visitors at any one time. This is just one example of the preparation and energy that goes into the creating the Christmas experience in Manhattan.
Manhattan is one of the best places to immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit, and there’s no doubt that NYC puts on a great show for its visitors and residents. It inspires department store pilgrimages (for the shopping as well as the window displays); ice skating excursions to the renowned rinks at Central Park and Rockefeller Center; Christmas market hopping – from Union Square, and all the way up to Columbus Circle – where you can drink hot apple cider whilst perusing the stalls that sell all sorts of beautifully made handicrafts, intricate fine jewelry, artworks, and everything else in between. As I have discovered over the years – two, three, even four days is not enough to experience the city during this time of year. Despite any compulsive planning that may have been undertaken prior to the trip, there will always something to catch your eye and veer you off of a scrupulously mapped course. I recommend setting aside at least one week to experience New York in its holiday splendor. Unless it’s just gift shopping you’re after – then, a long weekend will suffice.
Having been brought up in Australia, I have never much cared for a chilly Christmas season, with or without snow. I’ll take the festive season in summery Sydney any day. Sure, I understand that a hot Christmas may seem strange to many people – after all, even I think that a decked out Santa Claus is more believable in chillier climates – though as I get older, it’s more about being with my family and creating memories, than anything else. Christmas time, for me, equates to beach weather and long, hot days; indulging in barbequed everything – grilled squid, charred lamb chops, sizzling meat patties – while relaxing in the backyard; enjoying the company of family and friends on rooftop bars, overlooking beautiful Sydney, a glass of Verdelho in hand. I always seem to take a trip to Oz in the middle of the year, and haven’t experienced a Christmas at home in a long while.
As it’s not a matter of going big or going home (my adopted home of NYC always delivers for the holiday season!), I do embrace the result of months worth of festive preparations made by the city. Whether braving the crowds that descend upon Midtown Manhattan, or during a stroll through the calmer parts of the city – be it Greenwich Village or the Upper East Side – it’s easy to spot coloured fairy lights prettying up balconies and storefronts; decorated Christmas trees or Chanukah candles framed by windows; wreaths hanging from doors and adorning brick walls that would otherwise stand bare. It’s a time when each neighbourhood equally embraces the festive season and an underlying theme of embellishment: now, less defined by their individual ‘hood appeal, and more unified in making Manhattan look like one very well decorated and brightly lit Christmas grid.
This year being no different, I set the nostalgia aside and took some time to explore New York City in its lead up to Christmas. En route, I became happily reacquainted with New York’s charm despite the droves: the beauty is in its street scapes and their everyday activity. This is the very reason I fell in love with New York City in the first place.
Here is a charting of a festive few days around and about, with some of that old New York charm thrown in. Enjoy!
See my post here for daytime images: Above it all: Manhattan’s High Line.