Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas in New York City -- Happy New Year in Time Square!

New York City is a wonderful place to visit and there is no better time than during the holidays when everything is merry and bright! To see more details all photos and mosaics will enlarge when clicked on.
It took me a long time to see the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree this year, and it did not disappoint! It will be on display until January 7th, 2009. The 76 foot Norway spruce tree came from Easton, Connecticut, home of fifth-grade teacher Maria Corti. It is decorated with 30,000 energy efficient LED lights that are fully powered by solar panels.

The Swarovski star, designed in 2004, measures 9 1/2 feet in diameter and 1 1/2 feet deep, and is adorned with 25,000 crystals and one million facets.

The first Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was put up in 1931 by workers building the Rockefeller Center complex during the Depression. The complex owner, John D. Rockefeller, thought the gesture showed the true meaning of Christmas, of hope and joy, and two years later had the first official tree erected for Christmas in front of the 70 story main building. The first official tree lighting was in 1933 and the first televised tree lighting ceremony was in 1951 on the Kate Smith Evening Hour show.

The twelve 8 foot tall wire sculptured angel figures that line the fountain in the plaza in front of the tree are by the English artist Valerie Clarebout, and have been part of the display since 1954.

Saks Fifth Avenue Department store can be seen in the background of this view of the Rockefeller Center Angels.

The search for next year's tree begins almost immediately! All year round, people from all over the USA write in with photos of their trees offering them to Rockefeller Center. The desired dimensions are a minimum of 65 feet tall and 35 feet wide, although the tree is usually over 75 to 90 feet tall. The tallest tree ever was 100 feet tall in 1999. If you have such a tree growing in your back yard you might want to consider donating it to be next year's Christmas tree.
After the tree is taken down from display the branches are recycled into mulch and the trunk is made into lumber to be used by Habitat for Humanity.

Over 500,000 people come to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree during its display and the day I visited I thought everyone decided to come on the same day! Sorry the photo is a little blurry, but I held my camera over my head and took the shot above the sardine can crowd trying to move on 5th Avenue! In all my years of visiting the tree I never encountered a crowd the size of this, but I realized it may have been larger than normal because of the few weekends of inclement weather we had in the month of December, including a snowstorm and rain storm, and the day I was in Manhattan it was a fair 50 degrees in temperature!

All of the publishing companies on 6th Avenue decorate their buildings so beautifully for Christmas as you can see in the mosaic above. McGraw Hill changed their usual giant tree lights display to LED lights this year, to reflect the popular desire to go green.

The UNICEF Snowflake hanging high above 5th Ave, designed by the famed designer Ingo Maurer and handcrafted by craftsmen at Baccarat, is the world's largest outdoor chandelier! The New York Snowflake sparkles with 16,000 Baccarat crystal prisms, and is 23 feet wide and over 28 feet tall, and weighs more than 3,300 pounds. The crystals are 2 ½” diameter, and each one that forms the UNICEF Snowflake can be purchased and engraved for a $500 donation which will go to UNICEF's efforts to help children around the world.

Some information from the web site:

"Shining in the heart of New York City and Beverly Hills, the UNICEF Snowflake is a special symbol for the world's most vulnerable children.
These iconic snowflakes—at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York and on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills—hang as a reminder of UNICEF’s commitment to reach a day when zero children die from preventable causes."

More iconic views of Christmas in New York in the mosaic above, from top left across are (1-2)views of Radio Center Music Hall where the famous (3) Rockettes are part of the Christmas Show, (4) the train display in the window of Lionel Store , (5) Saint Patrick's Cathedral, bottom left to right --(6) view of ice skating rink in front of the Rockefeller Center tree, (7) the top of The Empire State Building lit with red and green lights for Christmas, (8) view down 5th Ave at Saks Fifth Ave and St, Patrick's, (9) The NBC Rainbow Room marque, (10) the top of the building in Times Square where the New Year's eve ball is dropped.

The Saks Fifth Ave department store's "Snowflake Spectacle" is a light and sound show which is displayed on its flagship's facade featuring 72,000 Philips LEDs that illuminate 50 giant snowflakes, choreographed to the "Carol of the Bells" song. It was fun to stop for a few minutes to watch the snowflakes "dance" to the tune by individually lighting on and off in different sequences.

Sadly, because of the giant crowd that was in midtown, I did not even attempt to view the holiday decorated store windows this year. I did not want to chance anyone stepping on my fractured foot which is almost healed, so I'll make a point to go earlier next year to take photos.

There were lots of favorite cartoon "characters" along both 6th and 7th Avenues in costume this year very willing to pose for photos in exchange for a "donation." I have to admit the young children in the crowds were excited to see them.

As you can see in the mosaic above, Bryant Park, which is located between 40 and 42nd Street and 5th and 6th Ave, transforms into a Winter Wonderland during the holiday season!
The park hosts a free holiday fair during the season which features over 100 booths with goods for sale by artisans, designers and food merchants from around the world. A temporary 170' x 100' state of the art ice skating rink is constructed in the middle of the park, called The Pond at Bryant Park" and opens to ice skating from 8 AM to 10 PM with extended holiday hours, November 6, 2009 until January 24, 2010. If you come with your own skates it is free, and skate rentals are available for $12.

On New Years Eve the famous New Year's Eve Ball descends from the flagpole atop One Times Square. At 11:59 p.m., the Waterford Crystal Ball begins its descent as millions of voices unite to count down the final seconds of the year, and celebrate the beginning of a new year. Every year Waterford creates some new panels for the ball and this year the theme for the new panels is "Let There Be Courage."
The Duracell Smart Power Lab has been collecting energy from Power Rovers bike pedalers that will generate the approximately 32,000 watt hours that will power the 2010 numbers for 30 minutes during the New Year’s Eve Ball drop ceremony.

Some historical information from the Times Square Alliance web site:

"Revelers began celebrating New Year's Eve in Times Square as early as 1904, but it was in 1907 that the New Year's Eve Ball made its maiden descent from the flagpole atop One Times Square.
The Ball has been lowered every year since 1907, with the exceptions of 1942 and 1943, when the ceremony was suspended due to the wartime "dimout" of lights in New York City. Nevertheless, the crowds still gathered in Times Square in those years and greeted the New Year with a minute of silence followed by the ringing of chimes from sound trucks parked at the base of the tower - a harkening-back to the earlier celebrations at Trinity Church, where crowds would gather to "ring out the old, ring in the new."
A more detailed history of Times Square can be read at this Times Square Alliance Link.

On New Years Eve an estimated one million people are in Times Square to see the ball drop. It is always a very busy place, as you can see from the size of the crowd that was there the day I visited. I like to stay at home on New Years Eve. I cook a special dinner for my husband and we watch the ball drop along with millions nationwide and over a billion watching throughout the world.

The Waterford New Years ball was not yet in place the day I visited, but the numerals for 2010 were!
Can you believe we are beginning another new decade? The past ten years have brought many changes to the world, both good and bad. The next ten years will bring the same. The things we all hope and dream for are probably positive things such as blessings, peace, good health, happiness, love, success, friendships, hope, etc. Perhaps we would also like forgiveness, reconciliation, and courage. Don't we all resolve to try to be a better person in the coming year?
To all my family, friends, fellow bloggers who read my blog, and everyone else who chances upon it, I hope whatever you wish for the New Year comes true and that all changes you resolve to make will happen!
I have enjoyed learning about my city as I have blogged about it, and my life in it, over the past two years, and I have learned so much from all the blogs I read and chance upon. Each of you enrich my life more than I can express! I thank you all for sharing so much of your thoughts, talents, recipes, travels, your lives and your families and your friendship on your blogs, and I look forward to sharing another year with all of you!


I am linking this post to our gracious hostess Susan at A Southern Daydreamer blog's "Outdoor Wednesday" event. Visit her blog today to see other participating blog's links to their outdoor events.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gingerbread Extravaganza!

(all photos can be clicked on to enlarge)
I visited Le Parker Meridien Hotel located at 119 West 56 Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues, in Manhattan this weekend to see their Gingerbread Extravaganza that will be on display through January. All the gingerbread masterpieces were created by local NYC bakeries.

A view of Le Parker Meridien Hotel.

The hotel's location near Times Square and within close walking distance to Central Park and Fifth Avenue shopping, makes it a popular hotel for many tourists.

The hotel lobby Christmas tree.

A view of the Knave coffee/sandwich bar in Le Parker Meridien. It's a nice place to take a break if you have been busy shopping or sightseeing in the area, The hotel also has a popular breakfast restaurant called Norma's, and one of the best burgers in NYC can be purchased in their Burger Joint --just be prepared to wait on a line as this once best kept secret has been out of the bag for quite a while.

The gingerbread exhibit was in the 56th Street lobby atrium.

Visitors could purchase a ticket for $1 through the concierge desk to vote on their favorite gingerbread design, and also be entered in a chance to win a 5 night stay at the Parker Palm Springs, along with 2 round trip air tickets. All money benefits City Harvest, the world's first food rescue organization, dedicated to feeding the city's hungry men, women and children.

I found it hard to chose a favorite gingerbread creation as they were all well done and fanciful. I liked this one entitled " The Three Little Pigs Manhattan Holiday" created by Billy's Bakery. It reminded me of a Brooklyn brownstone. Notice the NY Times newspaper on the front steps, and what I hope were supposed to be the children's rhyme's"Three Blind Mice" passing by?

It also offered a side view of the Three Little Pigs inside the rooms!

I also liked "Sweet Ride' by the Buttercup Bake Shop.

Just look at all the detail inside the train car!

"Grand Central Terminal" by Magnolia Bakery was giant sized!

So was " Happy Holidays" by Le Parker Meridien and the Norma's Team. I liked the use of pretzels as the fence around the house.

I also loved the "Chrysler Building" by the Soutine Bakery. Making gingerbread stand so high must have been quite a feat!

How could I resist these charmers on top of "Marco's Toy Box" by Rolling Pin Productions?

All the gingerbread creations on display can be viewed in the mosaic at the top. All were wonderful, and certainly a sweet treat for the eyes. Come back for a visit soon as I'll be showing more photos of Christmas in Manhattan!

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Pink Saturday Christmas Chandelier!

I hope everyone that celebrates the holiday had a joyful Christmas!

Today is Pink Saturday on Beverly's blog, How Sweet The Sound, and I'm sure many participating blogs will continue to share Christmas glad tidings, so please visit Beverly today to keep your holiday cheer.

While in lower Manhattan recently, I went to see the NYSE Christmas Tree - which is also commonly referred to as the "Wall Street Tree" - on Broad Street between Wall Street and Exchange Place, and almost directly across the street, on display in the 15 Broad Street building lobby, was this stunning pink lit chandelier!

Upon further investigation I found out that it is 1,900-piece, Louis XV chandelier that once hung in the main banking hall of J. P. Morgan at 23 Wall Street. The two commercial properties have been converted into luxury condominium apartments and the chandelier was saved and put on permanent display as a design element.

Displayed so close to the ground, and lit with its soft and lovely pink glow, the chandelier looked like a magical crystal Christmas tree. Most unusual, unexpected and so delightful!

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

This beautiful painting is part of the collection of Spanish colonial art at the Denver Art Museum which I visited recently The oil painting with gold filigree, by Peruvian artist Ignacio Chacon circa 1765, is titled "Madonna and Child with Bird."

If it looks familiar it is because the image was selected by the United States Postal Service for the 2006 stamp Christmas stamp! The theme of each traditional U.S. Christmas stamp issued since 1978 has been the Madonna and Child, and according to the postal service web site these holiday stamps have attracted a devoted following over the years. I know I always choose them for my holiday stamps.

Also in the Denver Art Museum collection is this painting titled " Adoration of the Shepherds" by Nicolas Rodriguez Juarez, Mexico, circa 1675. I just loved the ornate wood panel the canvas was mounted on.

My family's Nativity creche circa 1974. It was one of the first Christmas items we purchased as newlyweds.

I received a beautiful e-mail Christmas card from Abby Press , an online store for religious and inspirational gifts where I have purchased gifts many times over the years, which contained the following sentiment that I'd like to share with all of you:

"This Christmas... Let's Give a Little Jesus, a thoughtful word or deed,

An act of generosity for someone who's in need.

Let's Give a Little Jesus to everyone we meet--

The salesclerk or the server, the person on the street.

Let's Give a Little Jesus, that's what really counts--

Not what's spent or bought, for whom, in what amounts.

Let's Give a Little Jesus to everyone, large or small...

For Jesus, the Messiah, is the Greatest Gift of All!"

--Lisa O. Engelhardt.

My 2009 Christmas tree!

Merry Christmas from my house to yours!

Santa cookie jar --a gift from my husband a few Christmases ago.

The Joy of Giving

"Somehow, not only for Christmas,
But all the long year through,
The joy that you give to others
Is the joy that comes back to you;
And the more you spend in blessing
The poor and lonely and sad,
The more of your heart's possessing
Returns to make you glad."

~ John Greenleaf Whittier

I would like to thank everyone who visits a very blessed and Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2010!

Thank you for your kind interest, comments and encouragements on my blog and also for sharing a bit of yourselves on your blogs. It has been a wonderful and enriching experience to make blog friends all around the country and the world. I've learned so much from all of you and I appreciate all you do!

One of my favorite ornaments.

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."

~Charles Dickens

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wall Street Christmas Tree & the Voices of the Ascension

I have yet to see the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree this year, but I hope to see it next weekend. One tree I did see, which is a little less known but also very beautiful, is on Broad Street between Wall Street and Exchange Place in front of the New York Stock Exchange.

Do you remember my recent blog post about Federal Hall? This is the view that the Federal Hall statue of George Washington has of the tree all season! I think he would have been quite pleased to see Christmas honored in this way.

There has been a Christmas tree outside the New York Stock Exchange since 1923, and the lighting ceremony is believed to be the city's oldest. This year’s NYSE Christmas tree is a 65’ high, 34’ wide Norway Spruce which hails from Ramapo, New York. Situated in front of the NYSE facade, the tree is decorated with 10,000 multi-colored lights, 250 multi-colored balls with the "NYSE Euronext" logo and a 6’ star on top, all supported on a 8’ x 10’ base fashioned as a gift box.

It certainly is beautiful viewed from any direction! (all photos will enlarge when clicked on)

It was wonderful to stand right under the tree and look up at all the large illuminated ornaments.

New York City is a wonderful place to visit during the holidays because no matter where you go there are many holiday lights and decorations.

This is Zuccotti Park,which is across from the Ground Zero construction site. It looked very magical and peaceful with all its white lights twinkling at dusk.

Even the old gravestones in Trinity Church were dressed with Christmas wreaths.

Almost every office building lobby has a Christmas tree. This is one that was inside a building I passed on Water Street. I took the photo through the window.

Last year we went with friends to a very beautiful choral musical production called "Fantasia on Christmas Carols" at Saint Ignatius Loyola Church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
This year we attended a "Candlelight Christmas Concert" at The Church of the Ascension, located on Fifth Avenue and Tenth Street in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan.

It was a performance by The Voices of the Ascension chorus and orchestra. They are one of the world's premier professional choral ensembles, with a distinctive artistic command of music from all periods and styles. They are in their 20th season under Artistic Director and Conductor Dennis Keene. The ensemble's concerts and recordings have received critical acclaim, and their latest CD "Song of the Stars" received a Grammy Nomination! You can listen to a sample of a selection of their recordings at this link.

The Episcopal Church of the Ascension was founded in 1827, when New York was a city of only about two hundred thousand people. The present edifice at Fifth Avenue and Tenth Street is one of the earliest churches designed by the English-born architect Richard Upjohn, who was working on plans for Trinity Church located on Wall Street, at the same time. The cornerstone was laid in 1840 and the church was consecrated on November 5, 1841. Soon after the church's completion President John Tyler, the first President to get married in office, chose the church as the location to wed Julia Gardiner in 1844. In 1987, the church was declared a National Historic Landmark.

The beautiful painting of "The Ascension of Our Lord" above the main altar is the work of John LaFarge. It was executed on canvas in place and completed in 1888. It is considered one of the finest murals of sacred art in America.
The church will soon be closed briefly for extensive repairs as they will be replacing their organ with one constructed by the great French builder, Pascal Quoirin. The church web site says that it will be one of the premier organs in the world and possibly the finest such instrument in America!

A view of the wood plank ceiling. The exterior brownstone structure has some age related cracks and there has been some rain damage to the interior walls, so before the new organ will be installed the church will do repairs and needed restoration.

One of the beautiful stained glass memorial windows near where we were seated.

The pews are cushioned in red velvet and each pew has an ornate door which opens and closes. Some of the pews in the church were private at one time, and they still have inscribed name plates attached to them. Many such prominent New Yorkers as August Belmont, William B. Astor, Frederick de Peyster and William C. Rhinelander have been parishioners.

When the musical production began the church lights were dimmed, and the flickering light from the multitude of candelabras gave a soft glow to the church and the chorus.

The combination of the soft light and the exquisite harmonic voices singing traditional Christmas carols and liturgical selections was a thrilling experience! I felt as if I were being transported up into heaven by angels!
A surprise guest artist who sang two solos that evening was the baritone Edward Parks, who makes his Metropolitan Opera debut this season as Fiorello in Il Barbiere de Siviglia. One of the selections he sang was the very lively and enjoyable aria "Largo al Factotum."

All in all it was a wonderful way to spend an evening in New York City and a prefect way to celebrate the Christmas season in Lower Manhattan and Greenwich Village. If you visit NYC do try to find a chorus production that take place in many of the churches in the city year round, and if you visit during the Christmas season try to visit the Christmas trees placed in different locations as you may be pleasantly surprised!

I am linking this post to Susan's blog A Southern Daydreamer "Outdoor Wednesday" event.. Please visit Susan's blog to see links to blogs with interesting and beautiful outdoor events.

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