I've been walking around New York a lot in the past few days in the quest for the perfect holiday gifts and food, and am overwhelmed at the number of out-of-towners jamming the sidewalks and stores. What are all these people doing in my town, getting in my way, I wondered to myself. And then I finally opened my eyes and instead of seeing the visitors as impediments to my path, I realized something that often gets overlooked when pressed for time at the holidays - New York is a beautiful place to be at Christmas!
There is a reason why Times Square is impassible on a Saturday evening in December - the magical lights of the billboards and theater marquis promise fun and excitement and glamor! The magnificence of Rockefeller Center with its skating rink and splendid Christmas tree is a sight that should not be missed. This year's tree comes from Sheldon, Connecticut, and is an 84' tall Norway blue spruce decorated with over 30,000 colored lights. Only the most jaded New Yorker could fail to be impressed!
Look across Fifth Avenue to see the huge lighted snowflakes decorating the facade of Saks, and then go uptown past the twinkling of the Cartier boutique, the amazing window displays of Bergdorf Goodman, and the lines of children and adults waiting to get into FAO Schwartz toy emporium! It's Christmas, whether you're ready or not! Walk up Park Avenue in the evening and enjoy the lighted trees adorning the medians of every block from 48th to 97th Streets. Nothing sparkly, just a quiet holiday tradition that has illuminated this stretch of avenue for many years.
A visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a must for any visitor to New York. Aside from a superb permanent collection, this cultural landmark is known for outstanding special exhibitions throughout the year. But one annual event holds a special spot in the hearts of many New Yorkers - from Thanksgiving to Epiphany the Met displays its beautiful Neapolitan Christmas Tree in the Medieval Sculpture Hall. Donated by Loretta Hines Howard in 1964, this 20' faux blue spruce is covered with 18th Century angels and cherubs who gaze down at the crèche and nativity scene at its base. Complete with carols and medieval music, this tree always makes me think of Christmas' past and the joy of Christmas future.
Other institutions offer other Christmas themes - like the Origami Christmas Tree at the American Museum of Natural History, or Tavern-on-the-Green's over the top Christmas decorations and ice sculptures, or Lincoln Center's beautiful tree adorned with Wedgewood ornaments depicting musical, theatrical and dance arts.
A British family stopped me for directions in Central Park the other day. As I walked them to where they were going, they told me excitedly about the sights they had seen and the great meals and shopping they had enjoyed. They told me how sad they were to leave New York but that they certainly hoped to return one day soon. And I thought to myself, thank goodness for all these many visitors who come to New York for the holidays and open our eyes to the wonders of this magnificent city. Welcome, and Merry Christmas!