Tag Archives: Christmas

What Christmas Is Like in New York City Now

On Tuesday, I walked through Central Park and down Fifth Avenue, past Saks (great free bathrooms!) and into Rockefeller Center. I saw the tree, decorated with lights and perhaps more beautiful than ever before. I saw something else too: people loving the tree and each other, and being resilient in the face of the biggest challenge we have faced in our lives.

Everyone walking up to the tree wore their masks, joined arms to take a picture, briefly pulled them down and put them right back up. No one had to tell them. And they looked as joyful as any other year. Maybe a little more so.

Some say New York City is dead, empty, a wasteland. Have they been there lately? I see problems, but I also see enormous perseverance and hope.

Our snow is fading in the warmth, and 2020 is fading as well. We will face 2021 with renewed dedication to overcoming our challenges and improving our home. And our home is the New York area, the United States, and this planet.

With confidence in our armed forces with the unbounding determination of our people we will gain the inevitable triumph so help us God.

Franklin Roosevelt, 1941

We got through that crisis and we are well on our way to beating this one too. We will celebrate the holidays with a renewed appreciation for life, family, friends, and the chance to be together. That’s my plan, anyhow.

Merry Christmas everyone!

My Favorite Christmas Songs Now

These last few years, nothing gets me in the mood for Christmas more than music. It gives me the warm feeling of the holidays that we need more than ever this year. I love listening to Christmas songs in the mornings while making breakfast or while decorating the tree.

I grew up with the classics: Silent Night, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, etc. Beautiful as they are, I’m mostly listening to more recent, pop Christmas songs these days.

Check these out today while you finish up your work or buy those final gifts!

And if you’ve hit your limit on Christmas songs for the day, try this jam I put on while folding laundry last night. I wished I had more socks to fold!

Tell me what your favorite Christmas songs are in the comments. Merry Christmas!

Photo: Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, New York City

How I Know Virtual Christmas Will Be Special

Photo: My great grandfathers Will (left) and John putting the world to rights. Connecticut, approximately 1987.

My family has always been spread across the country. When I was little, we moved away from my mother’s side in the Northeast to Wisconsin. My father’s side of the family lived in Kentucky. We had no relatives within 500 miles. And for a while, we didn’t have any friends either.

On Christmas day, I’d open my eyes to a sea of presents, despite my mother’s modest resources. She must’ve saved all year to give me that moment in the morning. Then, once the last gift was opened, the phone calls would start.

We’d usually begin with Granny Mary and Grandpa Jim in Kentucky, continue to Aunt Carol and Uncle Tony in Connecticut, and then on to Grammy up in Maine. Last was Will, my great grandfather. You didn’t have a short conversation with Will. You dialed 10-10-321 (leave a comment if you know what that is), punched in the rest of the digits, and connected to Stratford, Connecticut.

My part of the conversation was generally short. I remember he would always tell me at the end, “Pay attention in school, and learn all you can!” Will had worked as a trapper and later in a factory making asbestos brakepads. He did not have the opportunity to go to college. But he clearly wanted something different for us.

Even into his 80’s and 90’s, he read widely about ancient man, mammoths, and astronomy. In different circumstances, he might’ve been a professor. For me, he was a kindly grandfather. Maybe that’s enough.

Then, I’d hand him back to my mom. She would stand near the receiver, ever closer to hanging up, but the conversation would continue like that for hours, or so it seemed. I wondered when we might ever watch a movie or play.

After about 4 hours, they’d finally run out of steam and call it a night.

Those calls always felt like a marathon, but they also gave us a wonderful feeling of connectedness to a family spread far and wide. We didn’t have the money to fly to visit anyone, but we did what we could do. This year, a lot of people will be finding ways to connect without being in person. I can tell you it’s possible and it can be truly satisfying and joyful.

Many of the people we called then are gone now. Some remain. They’ll be on my list to call this Friday. And I’m adding someone new: my mom, whom I cannot safely go see this year. Maybe we will be on the line for 4 hours. If so, that’s fine with me.