Friday, December 18, 2015


You can smell the balsam of a fresh cut Christmas tree the minute you walk in our door. There's a small trail of needles that remain embedded in the carpet during the holiday; a burnt orange rust mark remains on the carpet from two years ago when some water from the tree settled under the metal runner of an antique sled leaving a reminder of Christmas' past for the other 364 days of the year. In our house Christmas is not meant to be artificial or easy. For me Christmas isn't Christmas if I can't rub the needles of our tree between my fingers and fill my nostrils with that intrinsic touchstone scent of pine that heralds the holiday.
In celebration of the Christmas tree (I'm assuming the Donald would want me to refer to the tree this way rather than trying to call it a Holiday tree) I've spent what free time I could find this trip to New York cataloguing the public trees I've seen this season and assessing whether they are real or artificial and if they are filled with the true smell of a winter wonderland. If I can get close enough I'll rub a few needles between my fingers releasing the aroma of the holiday and seeing if they meet the true test of an authentic Christmas by leaving that small spot of pine sap between my fingers that's impossible to wash off.
You have to start with the massive tree at Rockefeller Center. Trimmed in those egg-shaped colored bulbs it's the setting that is the trees biggest decoration.
Perched above Prometheus and the skating rink the view is best seen from the promenade leading from Fifth Avenue and looking to the west. You can't really get close enough to touch the tree, there's a barricade preventing close access and then there's the selfie-stick brigade to deal with as well. But if you've never seen the tree and you're in New York for the holiday it'd be a sin to not journey over to Rock Center to experience the ultimate Christmas scene while the Salvation Army bell ringers wag their clappers to the tunes of the season.
Moving uptown the towering tree in the center of the courtyard at the Bloomberg building is decked out in blue lights. It's a very sedate and stylish tree, a blend of the Christmas tradition done in Hanukah blue. This one you can touch. I have the sap marks to prove its authenticity.
The heavily decorated tree in Bryant Park behind the Main Library spreads the holiday spirit over the red and white striped awnings of the European inspired Christmas market
and its skating rink creating family memories that will live for a lifetime.
Nothing says Christmas like walking into the St. Regis and wandering into the King Cole room for a winter drink. No matter what your scocioeconomic status there's a feeling of power and pride in taking a stool and infusing yourself with the warmth of some holiday spirits served in a crystal glass.
On your way out there's a small shop with a tree decorated with antlers. Even here the hunt and power of conquest is on display making the holiday seem more than child's play. I couldn't force myself to get close enough to the antler tree to verify if it was a real tree, the antlers were a bit too intimidating for me.
Not to be out done The Peninsula on the west side of Fifth Avenue decks out its entrance with a pair of fierce bucks rearing up on their hind legs atop the heated metal canopy put there to shelter guests from the elements. Backing up the deer was a group of lit Christmas trees aglow with white lights.
Almost everywhere you turn in the city that is so connected to the holiday there are reminders of the season, Christmas carols seep out of revolving doors from the stores and shops that line the streets of Manhattan, ice rinks flourish from Central park down to the High Line, and vendors still sell roasting chestnuts from carts lining the sidewalks of the city. How can you not feel Santa isn't real when you're in the city that defines the spirit of Ol' Saint Nick.
Not to be out done I made a trip to the square in Madison. Wisconsin has one of the nations most beautiful capitols. The rotunda with it's coffered ceiling, marble columns and exquisite frescos is the perfect setting for the state tree. Every year the tree is decorated with handmade ornaments donated by statewide school children centering on a theme. This year's theme was sports. How this ties in to Christmas is beyond me but if you look closely you'll see an abundance of Packer green and gold along with Badger red and white. Madison may not have the grandeur of New York but you can't deny it has its own beauty and reverence for the holiday.


1 comment:

  1. The tree in the Capitol holds it's own with all the NYC ones - great photo!!