In the late afternoon of Christmas Eve, I had the magical notion of taking my delightful children (ages 8, 10, and 13) on the train to Manhattan to see the retail holiday windows and the giant tree at Rockefeller Center.
Although I love the idea of strolling down 5th Avenue at Christmas time and soaking in the creative opulence of the fanciest stores on earth, my boys could care less. So I did what any resourceful mother would do, and enticed them with a sushi dinner following our window walk.
In my version of the afternoon, we would run from window to window, sharing the excitement of being in New York for the holiday. The thousands of people jamming the sidewalks had flown or drove from all over the country– and the world– to experience Christmas in New York, I told them earnestly.
They were not impressed.
As soon as we emerged from the subway, the complaints began. They were cold, tired, and annoyed by the crowds of gawkers who also had the brilliant idea of cramming 5th Avenue on Christmas Eve.
I was disappointed, but not completely surprised by their indifference. But I wasn’t going to let those three Scrooges dampen my holiday spirit! I yanked their little hands through those giddy mobs of rubberneckers from 60th and Madison to Times Square, clicking as many pictures as possible, and ignoring their protests.
It didn’t help that the windows were a bit of a bust this year.
We started at Barneys on Madison. For years, the Barneys holiday windows were my favorite by far. They were edgy, fantastical, irreverent, and chic all at once.
Check out these gems from 2010:
This year, the store collaborated with rapper Jay Z to produce four futuristic scenes that were shiny and modern, but a complete snore.
There was a light show and a crazy tricked-out sports vehicle that was supposed to be Santa’s sleigh, but it just didn’t work for me at all.
So we soldiered on to Bergdorf Goodman, which got the best artistic design award of the evening, but was not as inventive as years past.
The theme was magical holidays.
Valentine’s Day was the highlight, with amazing attention to detail and color scheme.
The Henri Bendel windows were a pleasant surprise. They’re a tribute to famous cartoonist and New Yorker Al Hirschfeld.
New York notables, including Liza Minelli, Bernadette Peters, Carol Channing, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Woody Allen, and Audrey Hepburn were among those immortalized.
We made our way to Saks on 50th and 5th. More kid-friendly, the store’s whole block of windows told the story of a winter yeti who leaves home to discover the world and ends up in New York. Kind of random, but at least they tried.
By now the whining was reaching a crescendo so I relented and said we would head towards the restaurant…but purposefully passed the Rockefeller tree on the way. There were just a few other people there too.
Then we headed straight for Haru on 43rd and Broadway, where we met some friends and melted into our seats for sushi. The whole sojourn lasted maybe an hour but the struggle to wade through the sea of people in the midtown cold made us feel like we had walked to the North Pole. Nothing a vodka martini and three Shirley Temples couldn’t fix.
It was not the evening I imagined, but I’m glad we did it and I’d probably do it again. But don’t tell the kids. I’m hoping they’ll block all the bad parts out and only remember the sushi by next year.
Hope you’re enjoying some rest and family togetherness this holiday week. Wishing you peace, love and adventure in the new year. Happy holidays!