Christmastime in the City
by Chuck FischerA few years after I moved to New York City as a young mid-western college grad, I invited my family to visit me at Christmas time. I couldn't wait to show them how my newly adopted hometown lived by the same holiday mantra my family did:
"Decorate Big—Decorate Bright—Decorate Bold."
As if on cue, a light snow started falling as my two sisters and their families, and my mother and I piled in to two checker cabs we hailed outside my apartment. Destination: Grand Army Plaza -- Fifth Avenue at Central Park South.
As the liveried doorman opened that taxi door for us outside the fairy-tale-castle Plaza Hotel, the sights and sounds of Christmas in New York came flooding in. Horns were honking, stoplights were blinking bright red, yellow and green and horse drawn carriages were lined up as if waiting for royalty. As we strolled down Fifth Avenue from the Plaza, the sidewalks were filled with shoppers rushing in and out of stores, carrying packages that were as beautifully decorated as the shop windows all around us, and chestnuts were being roasted…not on open fires, but in vendor's carts on nearly every corner we passed.
Arriving at Fiftieth Street and Fifth Avenue, I took hold of my young nieces' mitten-covered hands, and asked them to close their eyes until I gave them a signal. We could hear a brass band playing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" as we turned the corner in to the Channel Gardens at Rockefeller Center.
"Three, two, one, open your eyes!"
My nieces started jumping up and down and squealing with delight as they pulled me toward the shimmering lights of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, and at that moment I felt pure joy.
Every December, for over twenty years, I take that same walk down Fifth Avenue. Without fail, when I turn into the Channel Gardens and see the towering tree framed by rows of trumpeting angels I am instantly filled with the spirit of Christmas in New York.
I hope that whenever you open this book featuring my hometown's best-loved holiday traditions you'll recall, or experience for the first time, the excitement and wonder of New York City at Christmastime.
**Chuck Fischer is a New York City artist whose paintings hang in some of the finest residences in the world. Many of his designs are in the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. His latest book pop-up book is Christmas in New York. He is also the author of two previous pop-up books, The White House and Great American Houses and Gardens.