Christmas is just two short days away, and while I thought I had everything in place, I still have a few last minute running around to tackle. When I look back at this month, I am amazed by all we have done in anticipation for Christmas Day. I grew up in NYC, but I never quite experienced it the way that my children are now, or, maybe, it’s just so much better now through a child’s eyes.
We kicked off December with a visit to Santa Claus. We usually visit three different Santa’s throughout the city, but I thought that this year we would cut back, with fear that too many questions would be asked about all our different bearded friends. In my opinion, ABC Home & Carpet has the best Santa. Completely decked in Victorian-style garb, he is the real deal; and the best part is that he knows Jason from a commercial they shot together. Over the past few years of visiting, he immediately calls out his name which usually leaves the kids in utter shock.
A new tradition this year was a visit to the iconic The Algonquin Hotel. Not only is this hotel full of history, but it is home to one of the largest Gingerbread House displays. I took the big kids along with my mom and I for an afternoon tea and hot coco before we headed over to Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
At the Algonquin, we had a chance to meet with the famous Executive Chef Jon Lovitch. Chef Lovitch is also the creator of Gingerbread Lane, an annual display of homemade gingerbread houses that he drafts, designs, bakes, plans, builds and decorates for an entire year. The kids had the opportunity to decorate their own Gingerbread House, but I think they might have eaten more than they put on the actual house.
And before we left, we made sure to pay a visit to Algonquin’s Hotel Cat, Matilda. She has the run of the house, except in dining areas and the kitchen, of course, but prefers to oversee the comings and goings of the many guests who cross her threshold. The fascinating story behind Matilda is that in the 1930’s, a cat wandered into the hotel searching for food and shelter and owner Frank Case welcomed the four legged friend into The Algonquin and a tradition was born. Matilda even receives mail from fans from around the globe. Cat lovers may contact Matilda directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After the Algonquin, we walked four short blocks towards Radio City, managing a bit of a sugar high. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is an astounding show for all ages, and it is guaranteed to get the whole family into the holiday spirit. A few times per week, the show hosts celebrity readers to come on stage about 15 minutes before the show and read “Twas The Night Before Christmas” to a select group.
Carla Hall, co-host on The Chew and past Top Chef competitor, was our celebrity guest. Sitting up on stage was super fascinating for the kids, and looking out into the crowded audience is probably something they will never forget.
Following the performance, we set out into the crowded streets to look at the enchanted windows and light show display at Saks Fifth Avenue, followed by a visit to the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. These are two stops we make sure to visit every year, during the holidays.
It seems like I have been waiting forever to do this, but this month, I took Siella to see George Balanchine’s, The Nutcracker. Having heard the tale in her ballet class, she was really excited to see the ballerinas in action on stage. She spoke about the Sugar Plums and The Sweets, and of course fancied all things pink. I was a bit nervous she wouldn’t appreciate it, but after having listened to her go on about it for the past week, I realized we found another new holiday tradition.
A little hidden treasure in our neighborhood is this decked out boat house loaded with all things trains. Ryder has visited this boy heaven everyday since it’s opened. He talks trains with the owners and even helps them when the trains go off the tracks.
And, Christmas time would not complete without a visit to see the Dyker Heights Lights. I have been coming to this neighborhood every December since I was a child, and now to watch my children enjoy the displays brings me so much joy. The lights have definitely changed over the years, but the spirit and excitement remains the same. The kids strolled the streets in their jammies and hot coco in hand, picking out which houses were their favorite ones.
I am happy to say that this year, we all really experienced the New York holiday season to the max. The kids are equally excited about Santa’s pending arrival, and they have been non stop about spreading cheer. We baked cookies, which were shared with neighbors and teachers, we packed toys which were delivered to toy drives, and they’ve been doing their best to keep their names on the nice list. This holiday season has been my favorite to date as a mother. It may not be Christmas yet, but the holiday spirit is alive and loud in our home.