Friday, December 21, 2012


Somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, back before the idea of DVD's or VHS's existed, Miracle on 34th Street would play on one of the three channels our TV picked up. It was a time of footie pajamas and hot chocolate made with real milk. The opening scene crackled in as we saw the back of Kris Kringle walking down one of the side streets in Manhattan, his cane in hand. My siblings and I were buried in our couch under a heavy wool blanket completely enthralled in the spirit of the Holiday through the magic of a movie. After the title had passed and the credits had finished scrolling Kris stops in front of a display window concerned that the window decorator had made a mistake with the placement of the reindeer in front of his tiny toy sleigh. From that moment on I had dreams of the holiday windows in the city that always seemed draped in necklaces of Christmas lights.
In my twenties, long after I had given up the footies with the buttoned up drop-down tushie panel, I got to walk down Fifth Avenue to see the windows of Saks, Lord & Taylor and Macy's for myself. I was in love with the holiday and the animated characters that danced, threw miniature snowballs and flew through skies made of twinkling lights. The only thing better was when I had a child of my own I could carry on my shoulders and share her delight as she squealed with laughter at the same dolls and mannequins that I had admired in seasons past.
This year my daughter is sixteen and not with me to enjoy the windows first hand so even though she's too big to ride on my shoulders I still want to share our joy in what Christmas looks like on a walk down Fifth Avenue
Central Park is always aglow with nature and the windows at Bergdorf's are a magical match to the parks splendor during the holiday.
The windows glisten with glamour from full-size to jewel-box bringing back the days
when women wore flasks gartered to their legs and men always wore tuxedos to dinner.
Once past Bergdorfs there's the crystal star hanging over the intersection of Fifth and Fifty-seventh Street.
There are windows that are meant to delight the children and then there are the ones that stir the imagination of a more mature mind.
At Henri Bendel's the anthropomorphism of its characters and the eclectic fashion made many a New York sophisticate stop and smile while some of the tourists could only scratch their heads in WTF.
They say everything is larger in Texas but New York can give Dallas a run for its money. A wreath so large you need to do a double-take when you see it in comparison to the grey suited munchkins standing behind the desk.
Diamonds have always been an important aspect of the holidays, so it was impossible not to stop and admire the entrance to Holly Golightly's favorite hangout, Tiffanys.
Even with the temperature in the mid-50s the spirit of the holidays permeated the entrance into The Peninsula Hotel. Who couldn't help getting into the holiday spirit when you're making your entrance to the city by way of this gate keeper and hotelier.
Not to be outdone, Cartier has wrapped its building with red and white lights in the form of a ribbon. A wrapped box under the tree from Cartier could make anyone's Christmas a very special occasion.
Then there's Saks, the quintessential purveyor of New York sophistication. Their windows were designed to delight all ages of viewers with snow globes
and barking dogs for the starry eyed children at the front of the store
to the couture designs of Zac Posen and Jason Wu draped over elegant mannequins out to party every night of the holiday season in the windows at the corner of Fifth and Fiftieth.
Prometheus continues to shine brightly as he has for the past seventy-nine years under the arms of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. It would be a shame to take the Christmas walk down Fifth Avenue without branching out to see the tree, the alley of lit angels and the skaters gliding around the ice rink at the center of the plaza.
For seventy-five years Lord & Taylor has graced its windows with the most traditional of all the windows. This year's theme was to take Santa's journey from the North Pole
to exotic holiday locations around the world. Lord & Taylor's windows have always been among my favorites.
It's their use of animation, the miniaturization of our world into a perfect recreation, and the beauty with which it portrays the Christmas season that puts it at the top of my list.
These are the windows Emmy and I could spend hours looking at until our fingers start to tingle and our noses start to run from the cold forcing us to move on or in.
At Forty-Second Street I had to veer west and take one last walk through the Bryant Park Holiday Market. Even though my shopping was pretty close to finished and I left my skates back in Madison, seeing their tree dressed in a million blue lights was worth the diversion. It was the perfect shortcut to my final destination, Macy's.
Macy's is the granddaddy of Holiday window trimmings; they've been at it since the 1870's.
This year they've called their windows the Magic of Christmas.
Skinny-armed puppets cavort through a Cubist landscape of past Macy's signature events.
There are times when we can't make it back to New York during the Holiday season, that time between Thanksgiving and New Year when the streets and avenues are festooned with the decoration of the holidays. If I can't make it back I try to make do with watching Miracle on 34th Street and a stint of blog viewing. This posting is my gift to all of you who couldn't make the walk yourself. Merry Christmas to all.

Central Park in Winter, NYC, 1935
Ernst Kassowitz, photographer
Available through The University of Washington Library

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