Christmas in New York

December 12, 2011

When considering writing about holiday traditions, I found myself thinking about my family sitting at the dinner table wearing the crowns from Christmas crackers, or the year the cat knocked over the Christmas tree (not coincidentally the last year we had a live tree). You can see what kind of holidays we have at our house. But what I found myself wanting to write about was the year we broke with tradition: the year we spent the days between Christmas and New Year’s exploring New York City.

Let me back up. It all started when we (my husband, son and mother-in-law) were discussing plans for celebrating Christmas in 2007. Out of the blue, Mom suggested renting an apartment in New York City. That captured our imaginations, because we’d always wanted to spend some time there. It didn’t take us long to search the vacation rentals on Craigslist for possibilities. We finally hit upon one that sounded suitable: “Sunny Apartment Old World Charm (Upper West Side)” and negotiated a price we could afford.

Memorial for John Lennon in Central Park
We flew to New York on Christmas day—practical, if a bit unromantic. We had no trouble reaching our apartment via cab ride. The 1929 building stood just a few blocks from the Dakota, where John Lennon was killed, and from Central Park. After settling in, we decided to see if we could find somewhere to eat dinner. Francesco, an Italian/pizza restaurant just down the street sounded good to us. Our “Christmas dinner” was pizza, pasta fagiole soup, shrimp scampi and chicken wings! Delicious, if untraditional.

Top of the Rock
We spent the next few days crisscrossing Manhattan, taking the subway and walking to the places we wished to visit. Our son seemed determined to sample a hot dog from every vendor in town. While it was cold to us Floridians, there was no snow to contend with. We packed a lot into our trip: a visit to ground zero at the World Trade Center, Times Square and lunch at Sardi’s, visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History. We rode the Staten Island Ferry at night for a stunning view of the lighted New York skyline, sandwiched ourselves into the crowds at FAO Schwartz toy store, rode the elevator to “Top of the Rock,” the 67th floor observatory deck at Rockefeller Center. One of my favorite stops was the New York Public Library, where the stone lions, whose names are Patience and Fortitude, wore festive Christmas wreaths. Inside, we marveled at the painted ceilings and elaborate mechanized system the staff uses to procure books for library patrons.

Patience...or is it Fortitude?
That year, we traded sitting in front of the fireplace opening gifts for riding the subway to the southern tip of Manhattan; a decorated tree at home for the decorated tree at Rockefeller Center; turkey and ham for pizza and pasta. We still talk about the year we went to New York for Christmas. We built many happy family memories as we walked up and down the city streets. Most years, I wouldn’t want to trade the comforts of being home for the holidays, but Christmas in New York? For that, I’d make an exception.

What are your favorite holiday traditions? Are there any new traditions you’d like to start this year?

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  1. I loved your story. It gave me hope that 'when' we change our traditions from time to time that all will work out well. Happy Holidays.

  2. Thanks, Claire. Sometimes change is good! I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday!

  3. That sounds like a wonderful tradition I would love to start! Unfortunately, I don't think I could convince my DH of that one.

  4. Well, Cheryl, maybe you and I will just have to start our own tradition...!

  5. That sounds like so much fun and very adventurous. My sister comes home for the holiday so we (mom and sisters) usually hang out, go shopping or out to eat. It's pretty lowkey, but usually I just want to relax and read anyway. I'd like to spend Christmas abroad someday!

  6. Your Christmas with your mom and sister sounds wonderful, too--low-key, but very enjoyable. I've love to spend Christmas abroad someday, too--maybe London or Paris. Where would you like to go?