A different kind of holiday season

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4ADecember has always been my favorite time of the year — no matter where I am, and even if memories of Christmases in Manila make me miss home all the more. Christmas in New York is a little less festive because we don’t all do Christmas– depending on one’s faith, it might be a Hanukkah .. or Kwanza..

Last Thursday, I was in the city for a doctor’s appointment and I decided I would go around and visit the usual places which were the festive manifestations of the holiday. This year, the lions adorning the front of the New York Public Library, Patience and Fortitude, have their customary Christmas wreaths, but are now masked.

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I wanted to check out the shops at the winter village in Bryant Park behind the library and found out that only a third of the usual number of stores and food outlets have been given space to allow for social distancing.

This side of the park right behind the library used to have two rows of shops facing each other but now have been left empty.

No booths on this side of Bryant Park this year

The seasonal restaurant is not up this year, and the skating rink facilities are all outdoor so there is no longer any enclosed waiting/changing station. What few shops that set up still bring us the holiday spirit, but it isn’t quite as festive as years past.

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The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is now cordoned off and the nearest you can get is at least 10 feet away through a directional path, where security personnel and denominated circles on the ground let you make your way closer to the tree.

The crowds were visibly thinner and there was a horde of security and police present.

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Even going through the main walkway where the angels with their trumpets blaring lead you towards the front view, allowing you to see the tree with the statue of a Prometheus under it as the skaters glide on the rink are now controlled and directed. Which is good given the current state we are in.

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The usual decorations have sprouted up again but the crowds aren’t there. Although that makes taking pictures a whole lot easier, a visibly thinner audience around all this display of the holidays makes it less festive than we have been used to. But that is life now as we know it.

Christmas in Bryant Park

I was going to do another Friday Five  when I started writing this Friday night, but I changed my mind after I went through the pictures I shot at noon around Bryant Park earlier that day. The sun finally came out despite the low temps and it seemed to be almost perfect lighting at high noon, so I had decided to take a detour around the christmas tree by the New York Public Library, closer to Fifth Avenue.  I bundled up, put on my shades, walked the longer route, and I snapped away…

Christmas in Bryant Park- December 12, 2014The park comes alive with the holiday shops every year, along with the skating rink that draws both local patrons and tourists.  It’s one place where the Christmas spirit is felt very strongly in this melting pot of different holiday practices and sentiments.  I always complain that it’s not as “christmassy” as back home (in Manila) because there’s a divide between Christian and Jewish holidays.  So we are awash with red and green and a sea of blue.

Christmas in Bryant Park- December 12, 2014

But here in Bryant Park, you just get enthralled by the overpowering holiday cheer, whether you believe or not in Christmas.  Its Christmas songs and decorations all around.  It brings the park to life in a different way — making it my favorite season in this favorite park of mine.  It reminds me of home where Christmas begins in September and ends with the Feast of the Three Kings the first Sunday of January.

Christmas in Bryant Park- December 12, 2014Christmas has always been my most favorite time of the year but it is celebrated very differently here.  It’s not quite the same as we know it back home.. still, it’s “home” to me now and has been for the last 15 years.  I revel in my little boy’s lighting up when he thinks of presents and all that.  And while like me, it’s our first Christmas here again after three years of christmases spent in Manila — christmas is christmas wherever it finds us.

Christmas in Bryant Park- December 12, 2014
I’ve decided not to make my holiday cards this year.. succumbing to the 50% off sale in Barnes and Noble the other weekend.  I just figured I’d save myself the trouble.  (Yes, I’m being cheap but this is THE BEST time to buy your cards.. and weeks after the holidays!)  I think I’ll actually be able to send out more being that I’m not pressured to produce them myself… and maybe it’s time I take a break and enjoy the holidays instead of stressing out about it.  (Note to self: start the cards in September next year!)

 

Christmas in Bryant Park- December 12, 2014

I’ve been thinking of actually sitting here one of these days, but the autumn has been a very cold and wet one — I almost shudder to think how our actual winter will be.   

I have always looked forward to Christmas — even when I don’t want to look back to holidays that may have not been festive enough or happy at all in the past.  I look to it as a time to make new memories and to close out a year ending — whether the year was good or bad.  I’m not quite in that mindset yet — writing about the year just passed.  It hasn’t quite gotten me there. 

I’m sticking to Christmas.  I know that no matter how simple or grand this year’s celebration will be, it definitely will be much better than the previous year’s.  And if only for that, there is much to look forward to.  I might even put up the Christmas stockings again — not so much for myself but for the little guy who is all this Christmas is all about.

Snowy, snowy Monday

Snowy Monday
We woke up with a good layer of snow covering most of the ground and a steady snowfall threatening more.  I was the only one who trudged out to brave it, and there was already almost two inches of snow as I made my way to the bus stop.

I’m a fan of freshly fallen snow, but I loathe having to deal with its aftermath.  You feel like you’re walking inside a freezer and you have to be quick to distinguish ice from slush from soft snow.

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More than an hour later, the bus managed to literally crawl to Manhattan.  Snow tends to slow vehicles because it is slippery and gives the vehicles a lot of difficulty when it comes to maneuvering.  It wasn’t as bad in the city but the snow didn’t stop falling.  The trees were already outlined by snow resting and accumulating on its branches when I reached Manhattan just after 9am.

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By noon, the New York Public Library and Bryant Park 41 storeys below me were blanketed with snow — and no, this photo is not in black and white.  Snow and the weather condition made it look like it was.

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The vista across from our building was a gloomy grey.  The continuing snow fall made it so, as if a shroud of gloom descended upon the city.

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The most dramatic yet was the one I took just a short distance from my doorstep as the sky glowed while a slight drizzle of snow fell to the ground.  For all the hazard and difficulties brought about by such heavy snowfall, you can’t help but admire the beauty of all that white, coating the outlines of the trees as you look up into what looks like a luminous night sky.  No bright lights — hence, the brownish tint of the picture.  (Plus, of course, a little help from Instagram’s filters..)

Breathtaking.