Celebrating Christmas in New York City as a European

Filed in American Culture by on January 9, 2015 0 Comments

Cecilia Lusardi is a J-1 Trainee at the Alessandro/Weber Design Agency in New York, New York.

Before coming to the U.S., average Europeans think they know everything about celebrating a proper Christmas: what kind of decorations they are supposed to use, how to set up a Christmas Tree, the carols that should be played and how to go window shopping.

But once average Europeans find themselves spending their first Christmas in the U.S. (and more specifically, in New York City), these are typically the stages they go through:

  1. Fainting
  2. Confusion
  3. Inexplicable joy
  4. Excitement
  5. The truth phase: Americans are professional Christmas celebrators and we, dear Eurofriends, still have a lot to learn.

When December knocks on the door, rest assured that New York City is already rocking the perfect atmosphere for the occasion. New York City becomes a gorgeous, illuminated, colorful gem and every street corner spreads a unique Christmas vibe.

Rockefeller Plaza sets up the most outstanding Christmas tree you can imagine and the Empire State Building makes it hard for your eyes to look anywhere else with its spectacular changing lighting schedule.

For more Christmas magic, Bryant Park is another great spot to visit.

If you feel adventurous, skating on the ice rink is one of the most comical activities you can do. And for those feeling “Europesick” after skating, the answer is to take off your skates and enjoy strolling around the holiday open-air market. As soon as you step into one of those adorable little artisan glass-shops, you literally can’t help but feel that you’re in one of the many European capitals.

However, among all the possible things to do and discover during Christmas time, here are four things everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime when coming to New York City during such an amazing period of the year.

1. The first thing everyone should put on their “Absolutely To-Do List” is an intensive window shopping session in three of NYC’s best stores: Macy’s on 34th – Herald Square, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman, also located on 5th Avenue.

This Christmas, Macy’s created a stunning interactive six Christmas-themed window display called “Santa’s Journey to the Stars”. Each window portrayed the animated tale of a young boy named Alex, who was experiencing Christmas on a journey through different planets together with his dog Bella. The moral of the story? When it’s Christmas time, there’s no place like our beloved planet Earth to celebrate it!

Following Macy’s similar traditional storytelling theme, Saks set up “An Enchanted Experience”, a series of holiday windows paying homage to the Christmas Saks 1920s Art Déco origins and New York’s iconic places featured by classic fairytales perspective.

One of my favorite characters was the Sleeping Beauty, a beautiful flapper, which rested on a fabulous Central Park setting. This was the perfect scenario for the City that never sleeps.

More magic was displayed by Bergdorf Goodman’s Christmas windows, inspired by the arts and celebrating literature, architecture, theater, painting, dance, sculpture and film and featured by gorgeous haute-couture dresses and outstanding settings.

2. Walk as much as you can, whenever and wherever your feet may lead you. New York City is all about walking.

Walking allows you to end up in places you wouldn’t expect could be so gorgeous and alluring this particular time of year. Grand Central, the Met Life Building with its magnificent indoor Christmas tree, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the Chrysler Building, and the Radio City Music Hall are just a few of the infinite places that must be seen under Christmas lights to discover, admire, and appreciate new aspects of their unique beauty.

Take your time to walk also to places like Central Park and along the Museum Mile.

Walk from the fancy Upper East Side down to the vibrant East Village. Experience how the city changes. Breathe it in. Walk through the warm Little Italy, the hectic Chinatown, the industrial-looking Tribeca and the fashionable SoHo. Let New York City guide you.

While going back up to the Theatre District, warm yourself up with the dazzling Broadway lights.

3. Eat everywhere you can!

New York City is like a universal restaurant open 24/7 and if you think you’ve had enough, that’s exactly when you need to stop again for a quick bite. On Christmas there’s no such thing like eating too much!

4. Last (but not least), don’t forget to share your Christmas in New York City with someone you love. After all, a shared joy is a doubled joy. In a city like this, Christmas can be more magical with someone to share it with!

If you get tired of New York, don’t worry, there’s still the gorgeous Brooklyn to explore!

Happy Holidays, everyone!