Friday, December 11, 2015


Miracle on 34th Street begins with Kris Kringle walking by a store window where a befuddled employee is trying to put together a Christmas display of Santa and his reindeer. I can't remember a Thanksgiving that I haven't sat in front of the TV and watched as Kris corrects the shop owner with the order of his reindeer. As early as I can remember, back when I wore footed flannel pajamas printed with cowboys on horses and wooden post corrals; sitting and watching Kris was that delicious beginning of what seemed the unendurable anticipation of Christmas that plagues all children.
'Bucket List' wasn't a part of the lexicon back then but 'Wish List' was.  I could see the North Star outside the bedroom window I shared with my younger brother. Through the crystals that would form on the window panes at my boyhood home in Wisconsin I'd make my wish that some day I'd get to walk down those same Manhattan avenues Kris walked down swinging his cane and see those decorated windows and the glamour that is New York style.
Now that we've lived in New York for several decades the wonder of the department store windows hasn't worn off or lost its charm. Not rain, or sleet or snow stops me from walking from the Plaza down Fifth Avenue until the tips of my fingers have turned purple and my feet are numb with cold. This year the weather was mild and the windows didn't disappoint. Emmy went with me as she has for many of the past nineteen years. From the time she was two and perched on my shoulders in order to see till now when she carries her own camera it's been one of our father daughter bonding experiences.
We got out of the subway at Columbus Circle right in front of the Time-Life Building around eight in the evening just as many of the stores were trying to straighten their disheveled sweater displays before they could lock the doors. We walked across Fifty-ninth to Fifth Avenue.
The street was still crowded with shoppers trying to maneuver the packed sidewalks, their hands clutching the chic fabric straps attached to bags filled with gifts from the fashionable shops that occupy the Avenue. In front of the limo lined entrance to the Plaza the glitter and glam of Bergdorf's beckoned from behind Grand Army Plaza and the Pulitzer Fountain.
Over seven million crystals in collaboration with Swarovski blinded everyone who walked by. Their theme this year was simply "Brilliant".
The first window we passed completely embodied the theme of "Brilliant" with a fortuneteller in front of spinning wheel of fate, a pair of tarot cards and two palms all covered in crystals
From there Bergdorf took us under the sea where Neptune was completely encrusted in pearls as he sat atop a dolphin head with a bevy of crystalized under-the-sea treasures and creatures laid at his feet.
Then the party in the windows went into full swing with cakes and cones, games and bands. The only thing missing was a mirrored ball but with so many crystals who would have noticed?
It's almost impossible to calculate the hours of production time it must have taken to assemble and glue all those crystals.
The last window was a trip back to a time when royalty ruled, doors leading to the bed chamber were upholstered in velvet and knights in crystal armor stood as sentinels guarding the secrets behind the doors.
Even the royal dog wore a suit of emerald crystals. "Brilliant" was the perfect one word description for Bergdorf's entry into this year's holiday window experience.
Saks' windows for the past couple of years have had to compete with the light show projected on the their flagship fa├žade. The best view seems to be from across the street where the "Winter Wonders of the World" were dwarfed by the light show above.
The windows took a tour from Paris and the Eiffel Tower
to the Sphinx in Egypt
then off to the Taj Mahal
and finally to the Colosseum in Rome.
The year I met Rick was the first year I was in New York for the Christmas holiday. A light snow, a warm coat and I was off on a bucket list venture down Fifth Avenue past Saks and Rockefeller Center, B. Altman's, Macy's and Gimble's but the windows that took my breath away were at Lord & Taylor. Spinning a tale that could have been written by Dickens the windows were full of animatronics and the elaborate sets as intricate as Colleen Moore's dollhouse and as authentic as an episode from Dowton Abbey. These pages from a child's picture book made my adult imagination tear up with joy and amazement.
The tradition of capturing Christmases of yore went on for decades but change is inevitable and Lord & Taylor's windows have caught up with the times. Amazing projections now compliment the 3D centerpieces for each window. There's no way to appreciate their windows in still photographs. Each window has to be seen in the way you'd twist a kaleidoscope its little stones and bits of glass forming patterns and color combinations that thrill and delight.
Their theme this year was, "A Few of Our Favorite Things". It started out with a holiday countdown envisioned through the windows on an imaginary Manhattan mansion. Like an advent card the windows flip on and off with scenes of the holiday appearing in the mansion's windows.
The gingerbread kingdom consisted of an army of bodybuilder gingerbread men hoisting a Victorian gingerbread house while visions of holiday delights danced in the background
The cuckoo clock ticked off every goose bump on my joy meter. A Rorschach of black and white abstracts swirled and collided behind the clock telling animal time with chasing rabbits, tweeting birds and resident owl.
The final window was a Sweet Shoppe that put Magnolia Bakery to shame. A conveyor belt of cupcakes danced around a counter filled with petit fours, macaroons and holiday cakes on hydraulic stands that bounced up and down to Christmas carols.
I thought that maybe the joy of seeing the windows would be over after I had seen them once. Then I thought I'd need the eye of a child to regenerate that sense of awe at seeing the windows again and again, but nineteen years of traveling Manhattan's avenues of Christmas lights have passed since Emmy and I strolled the avenue her bundled in a carriage or perched on my shoulders. Now she walks beside me and both of us still ooh and aah our eyes glistening and our imaginations loving each precious moment of sharing a tradition I hope never grows old.
Macy's Christmas Windows, 1870
Source Unknown

1 comment:

  1. The staff here is actually competent and friendly, unlike other places with their pretentious staff guys. The Los Angeles venues were magnificent and modern, and the seating was comfy. Truly, the food was heavenly and as a visitor I am glad for finding this one.