New York Holiday Traditions will Get You Excited for Winter
Have I mentioned that the time between Halloween and Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year? There are so many reasons why, but I think what I love most is returning to the special things that I always do this time of year. There’s just something about winter traditions… they’re warm and cozy as a fur blanket. I have lots of summertime traditions, but… it’s different. Perhaps human beings have perfected the art of making small moments feel special, while we bide our time under the canopy of winter. Maybe we didn’t need to try so hard in May or June.
Whatever the reason, winter is coming and there are about 600 things that I am looking forward to and excited about. I have accumulated 42 years worth of fun, festive, deeply poignant and joyful winter and holiday traditions. But even with all that abundance, I’m working on a few new ones this year.
December is the time to go the ballet, opera, theater, symphony or just about anything that puts you in an audience, sitting next to other people of Earth.
Ordinary New Yorkers often talk about how the vast cornucopia of culture at our fingertips is the reason that we live here. Then we look at ticket prices for the Lion King and decide that, actually, we don’t want to spend ten percent of our retirement savings for an afternoon with Simba.
Last Christmas I suggested to my sisters that we only exchange gifts for our kids. They agreed on the condition that we do something special together instead. We all love La Bohème, so we got tickets. Only problem was that my sisters are both kind of fancy, and the tickets they chose cost more than I ever would have spent on gifts. And I missed the show because I was sick. Not all attempts at enjoying culture work out.
But there are so many other live experiences to share with your children that are more affordable, yet still completely awesome. You don’t need $350 a pop tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular to be your holiday tradition.
Our big December tradition for years was to see the American Ballet Theater production of the Nutcracker at BAM. It was cheaper than the George Balinchine production at Lincoln Center and I much preferred it. But ABT split for the West Coast, so we have been really lacking a special December tradition.
Then one day, I was sitting in a theater watching Bladerunner, and music from Peter & the Wolf came on. And it reminded me of how I once took my son to see a Little Orchestra Society performance of Peter & the Wolf that we really loved. I searched for a performancee and learned that Peter & the Wolf is a beloved December tradition at the Guggenheim. So I got tickets for me and my kids. They were $40 each. There are still a few left.
Unearthing all our Christmas story books is always a fun day.
Oh, how I will cry my eyes out when my little one gets too big to read them in a few years. We have all the classics… ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, The Polar Express, The Grinch. And so many winter favorites… Peter Rabbit A Winter’s Tale, Over & Under the Snow.
But I have just discovered the most perfect new children’s Christmas book: Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares. Red & Lulu is about a cardinal couple who get separated when the big spruce tree that they live in is chopped down to become the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. It is a lovely story and the illustrations are beautiful.
Of course, the tale was inspired by a pair of real cardinals. Which I am not surprised about and can greatly appreciate, after we witnessed our own enthralling cardinal drama outside the kitchen window this year.
Cardinals in winter, what could be more beautiful or inspiring.
Food is always an important expression of season and a central part of all our holiday traditions. So are cocktails.
A few years back we made Brandy Alexanders – a retro, supremely awesome cocktail — after coming across the recipe in the NY Times. This has become a new wintertime tradition around here. Our friends now demand it. We usually have the first Brandy Alexander of the season the night we decorate our Christmas tree, but I will gladly bust out the brandy and nutmeg sooner if a cold and festive breeze blows by. Here’s the recipe… try it. Just make sure you have some jazzy tunes playing in the background. Bonus points if you have a fireplace. Be careful who you serve it to – they’ll request it forever more.
In all seriousness, choice overload and FOMO in New York can be stressful.
The holiday season heightens this, with all its expectations and implications about magical Christmas mornings equaling happy childhoods, which, if screwed up, will lead to depressed adults with crappy jobs and failed marriages.
Am I making things special enough for my kids, did we get the perfect gifts, did we have a Normal Rockwell cookie baking moment? Did we go to the train show, get a good photo for Christmas cards, remember to buy Christmas pajamas? This is how we lose our shit at Christmastime. I have those moments. I’m not trying to add to your doomed quest to have the perfect holiday season or to do everything.
Keep to your treasured traditions. Be open to a new one here or there. These are just a few I am getting excited for and looking forward to as I sit in my little apartment, praying for snow.
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