It had been several years since I left New York and moved to Norway. Last year I started to feel nostalgia for all the cool, beautiful, and quirky things that one can experience in the Big Apple, for the feeling of New York City. In this context, my significant other surprised me for my summer birthday with a trip to the place where we first met in person. To rediscover the city which leaves no one indifferent.
Places have a different perspective for me, depending on whether I inhabit or visit them. I wanted to see New York as a traveler, in a new light, and from an alternative point of view. Like someone who knows where to go but is still curious to discover exciting things. I wanted to find out how the city chameleon had changed this time. While in some parts of the world people think about Christmas in the summer, I thought August was not too hot to think about Christmas in New York.
Christmas is the time of the year I wish I could erase from the calendar. It gives me blues in a flash. Everyone suddenly remembers to be kind and give to charities. The poor and terminally sick are remembered. I enjoyed the holiday as a kid, ate the chocolate decorations from the Christmas tree, wrote and sent letters to Santa. The latter I threw off the balcony, hoping that he will read them – I wasn’t thinking about the environment then.
Christmas is a family holiday and people usually celebrate with their loved ones. However, New York is a place where the plethoras of Christmas Eve dinner menus, Christmas Day breakfasts, and brunches are endless. People dress to impress and enjoy Latino-inspired, typical seasonal dishes or Hanukkah foods (if the Jewish holiday happens to be around Christmas). We choose to book a Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner, an Italian-American celebration of Christmas Eve, including fish and other seafood. On December 25th we indulge in a breakfast visually similar to British afternoon tea with an explosion of festive flavors. All this accompanied by Christmas carols – a vintage and an aesthetic experience. Performers dressed in a style from past times come to each table and sing a capella a melody on request. I ask for ”Silent Night”.
One of the things I like New York for is that there is always something interesting to do, planned or unplanned. Across the street from the venue where we have breakfast, we discover that Uma Thurman is currently performing in an off-Broadway comedy. We usually buy tickets months in advance, however, the spontaneity of attending an unplanned event is too alluring to miss. Success, tickets are available, on top of that in the first rows.
We do what we came for: to experience Christmas from an unusual angle and to rediscover New York. A cable car over the Hudson river takes us to Roosevelt Island, a strip of land with unconventional views towards Manhattan. We ride a vintage New York City subway line which runs only for a weekend during the holiday season. Many riders dress in a vintage style to match the concept. Seasonal markets tempt with locally, often handmade little treasures. As a big fan of pickles as I am, I jump for joy to try fried pickles for the first time. The non-shopaholic in me eventually surrenders to beautifully crafted and interesting stuff from the Christmas markets.
The crowds are huge, but the hassle is worth to see the annual window displays of department stores. Every year they are different and more magical than the previous year. Always created with a lot of thought and attention to detail, the art creations are an extraordinary feast for the eyes.
As this is not enough, we head to explore an area in Brooklyn famous for its lavish and extravagant Christmas decorations. Completely sane people cover their houses with as many blinking and colorful lights as they can. Why? For fun’s sake. It’s an intense experience to walk around and listen to Leonard Cohen’s ”Hallelujah” blasting from a backyard.
The Christmas mood and spirit are not my things. New York, you don’t disappoint. Again!