Growing up only 90 miles from New York City definitely had its advantages, especially around the holidays. My mother would usually plan a trip into "The City," as we called it, during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.
The intent was to see all the department store windows along Fifth Avenue, to visit the ice skating rink and Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and to even see the Radio City Hall Christmas Show with the Rockettes.
We would drive down, park the car, or sometimes even take the train from Poughkeepsie, and then start walking. Most stores had velvet rope barriers on brass stands to make viewers line up close to the windows so as to not interfere with foot traffic.
The windows were like big snow globes: most were animated and each store usually depicted a Christmas story such as The Nutcracker, or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (which, by the way, was created for Montgomery Ward), etc. Usually there would be a printed part of the tale in the front of the window, but for small kids who couldn't read, you'd hear parents reading it to them. The scenes were magical and I would later learn that many stores spent most of the year preparing them. And the stores tried hard not to repeat the same story each year.
Of course, while I looked forward to these trips each year as a child, as I grew older the interest eventually wore off. And while Marshall Field's windows here in Chicago are wonderful and watching young kids marvel at the Christmas displays brings back so many memories, it just doesn't feel the same as those windows of my childhood and Christmas in New York.
Photo: Giant Ornaments, New York City 2006 by zizzybaloobah on Flickr.