Christmas in New York City
I always liked Christmas in New York City, coming from a New York Jew, it might seem like a sacrilege, but I liked it anyway.
I especially enjoyed Christmas when it fell around Hanukah, the Festival of Lights, one holiday I religiously endorsed. Technically each child was supposed to be gifted with a present a day during the eight days of Hanukah. Who could argue with that? It was all part of Christmas in New York City, a month of revelry, no school either, the Xmas/Hanukah vacation. There was only one thing missing from my perfect life, a Christmas tree!
I’d never once had one, my mother would blanch when I’d make my yearly request, I could see it in her horrified eyes, but she’d explain patiently about the symbology; how we were Jews and Jews don’t celebrate Christmas – period, under any circumstances! She was adamant, having grown up in an orthodox family, observing Christmas was beyond the pale. She made it clear that I was welcome to go to as many neighborhood tree trimmings as I wanted, but one would never cross our portal. I was a heavily recruited tree trimming guest, because I had endless patience for stringing popcorn, but I was never satisfied, I wanted my own tannenbaum.
One year, I grew so insistent about a tree that Mom deigned to take me to Rockefeller Center to see the holy grail of trees, the Rock Center giant! She figured it would satisfy my yule cravings, but it didn’t; yeah, yeah, nice, but it wasn’t mine. It didn’t even seem that big to me either, but it would have to do.
Years later, when I had children of my own, and they would inevitably ask for a tree, I would give them the same spiel my parents had given me; no tree, we’re Jewish, go visit your friends. I actually used Santa Claus to teach my children about relativity. When I was married and living in Brooklyn we would frequently drive past a factory that made Christmas decorations, there on the roof was a giant Santa and his reindeer. In July, with the brutal sun beating down Santa looked ridiculous, and way over dressed, but as it got into fall then December, Mr. Claus looked absolutely perfect. Why, only because the seasons had changed, nothing else. The kids got it.
Santa would still occasionally sneak into my life. Last Christmas (2012) I met Santa for the first time. My son married a Christian woman and they had a kid, my dear boy Danny. Come Xmas and they decided to visit Santa at Macy’s. As grandpa I was naturally asked to tag along. I was totally unprepared for how tricked-out the Macy’s Santa experience is, there are elves and greeters and a fully rigged North Pole. There are at least 10 Santa’s, (maybe more) but the experience is so artfully designed that the impression is is that you are truly seeing the one and only big-guy. The Santa we were graced with was perfect, full red suit, perfect white beard, big red cheeks, and a wonderful sonorous
voice. He ho-ho-hoed us with great gusto! I was really impressed, and started talking to him a mile a minute, and he actually had to ask me to calm down. He said that I was more excited than any kid he’d met. What can I say, this was pent-up Santa envy. If my mom is looking down from heaven I know she’ll understand, she’s probably getting ready to trim her tree right now.
Being a tour guide I know more about Santa and Christmas then I ever dreamed possible, the most surprising thing I learned was that Christmas is basically an invention of three men, and most interesting of all. they were New Yorkers.
St Nick’s a real New Yawker. Read more: http://nyseetours.com/new-york-city-christmas/