by Brian Clarey
It’s been decades since I left New York for the South, so long that I actually understand why people hate the New York Yankees. I have no regrets — life in New York can be brutal and cold and expensive — but it’s important to me to get back to the area, and more specifically the city, as often as I can.
Our family Christmas trip usually scratches the itch.
This year we’ll wend through at least two boroughs, with a couple days in Astoria, a section of Queens that still somewhat resembles the New York I grew up in.
Then, early on Christmas morning, we’ll take Manhattan.
There’s nothing like Christmas in New York: the window displays on Fifth Avenue, the smell of roasting chestnuts in the cold air, the seasonal lights and artwork. There’s a vibe to the holidays there that I’ve never felt anywhere else: Joyous and manic and abundant and icy, it accelerates through the season to a magnificent climax on New Years Eve, after which everything becomes awful again.
But there’s a moment on Christmas morning — early, super early, while most people are shaking off hangovers and opening presents — that the city is at its most generous. That’s when my family pulls in, just after sunrise, and we can usually find great parking near the tree at Rockefeller Center.
We’ll get coffee and watch the skaters under the golden statue of Prometheus, check out the new scenes displayed in the window of the Lego store, hike over to an empty Times Square, the neon and billboards blaring just for us.[pullquote]it accelerates through the season to a magnificent climax on New Years Eve, after which everything becomes awful again.[/pullquote]
From there we can hit the Museum of Modern Art, open on Christmas, or ride an empty subway to the Central Park Zoo, also taking visitors on that day. But usually we just walk around and feel the energy, while showing our kids that there are bigger things in the world than the place they came from.
When the crowds start to come back out on the streets at mid-morning, we know it’s time to find the car and hit the bridge for New Jersey. Because Christmas in New York is great… for a couple hours, anyway.