‘Christmas Lights, Shining Bright’ was still limited to the twinkling canopy at Park Street, Kolkata for me back in 2009. All the merry enjoyments of Yuletide that I read about in Enid Blyton’s vivid pages, was all but a fiction of imagination for me….the smell of cinnamon flavored hot chocolate, of pecan pies and gingerbreads was yet to become a reality. But all of this was about to change when I traveled the seven seas, in the fall of 2010, to New York, to pursue my PhD.
The first few days in the city that never sleeps were lonesome, and I was missing Durga Pujo like crazy. But the demand from work made sure I did not become an inconsolably desolate soul. October turned, and so did the leaves: green to yellow to orange to nothing. With it came chills and the snow. But whatever the loss in foliage, was made up for with the advent of the holiday season. Although I’m supposed to talk about Christmas in New York, the season of festivities begins at the end of November with Thanksgiving, the day that celebrates ‘gratitude’.
With the advent of December, New York City undergoes a beautiful makeover. It gets decked up for the grand party called ‘Christmas’. From the high-end stores on 5th Avenue, to the cute little bistros of Brooklyn, the spirit of merrymaking is sprinkled everywhere. If you do not mind the throngs, everyone who visits NYC during this time, should walk on the stretch of 5th avenue and Madison Avenue, not to shop, but to admire the stunning window displays of the stores. It is as if each one competes with its neighbor in an undeclared contest for the most fun, eye-catching and creative display. Every inch of the city is dressed in red, green and gold.
The city’s most loved Christmas tree is a huge 85 feet tall Norway spruce that stands tall over the Rockefeller plaza. Thousands visit to see this impressive structure, the sparkly decorations, and sometimes even to skate a little in the rink below. Although the entire city joins in the celebrations, Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights deserves special mention. It is a residential neighborhood in south Brooklyn, spanning over a few blocks and it has the most amazing Christmas lights décor that I have seen in my entire life. Every house in the neighborhood sets up spectacular and elaborate displays with twinkling lights; a blinking Rudolf pulling Santa’s sleigh, or the transitions of the scenes of Nativity, or snowflakes falling down.
No celebration is complete without food and Christmas is no different. Yuletide brings with it the aroma of apple cider, sweet potato pie, Eggnog, chocolate fudge, prime ribs and many more. The whole city is spiced up with pumpkin spiced lattes and cinnamon rolls. Everywhere you sit to eat in the city, you get a flavor of the festival. And the great thing is, since it is New York, you can end up enjoying a Christmas delicacy all the way from Europe. The global outlook of this place is unparalleled. It is as if the feel of Christmas is coursing through you.
In spite of being the highest grossing time of the country’s retail economy, however, Christmas is also the time of reunions and coming home. It’s that time of the year when every bird flies back to their nests, if not physically, definitely in thoughts. It is the season of giving, and receiving love and joy and sharing the gifts of life. It’s that time of the year when even busy New Yorker smiles at the stranger next to them on the subway and wishes them a “Merry Christmas”.
Olipriya Das is pursuing a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn NY. She is an avid reader and a photographer by hobby.