I’m currently spending the Christmas holidays with my sister and her family in New York City.
It’s my first time to be abroad during the Christmas season, as well as on my birthday and New Year’s day. On my second day in New York, my sister treated me to the annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular show featuring the Rockettes at the Radio City Music Hall. I was a bit bored with the show with its predictable story, but the place itself was awesome! Great architecture with its grand art deco style.
Christmas in New York is definitely very different from Christmas in the Philippines. For one thing, you’d only know it’s Christmas when you’re near the commercial centers having with blinding holiday lights, and Christmas songs blaring from loudspeakers. In the residential areas, only a few houses and buildings have Christmas displays.
In the Catholic church where we attended Christmas day mass, the church was not full. It was a predominantly Russian neighborhood, I was told, and not many Filipinos lived here. I was happy to see a “belen” or nativity scene display, as I know I would not see much of this display here in New York. There were a lot more people when I had New Year mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, partly because the church is also a tourist attraction and is located along busy 5th Avenue.
Nativity display inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Unlike in the Philippines where Christmas is celebrated unofficially starting September, here Christmas is a one-day affair, as there’s work right before and after Christmas day itself. Schools usually have only a one week Christmas break, and classes resume promptly on January 2.
The cold winter weather was new to me, and I wrongly thought I was prepared for it. I bought thermal underwear and long outerwear, and borrowed boots in Manila. I soon learned the that they weren’t enough to keep me warm. My upper body was okay, with layers of thermal wear, shirt, jacket and scarf. The lower body was another story. I had thermal underpants worn under denim jeans, with thermal socks and rubber shoes. I could hardly move my feet as the icy feel of the streets penetrated my bones. I had to double up on thermal socks and borrow my sister’s thick winter boots before I could comfortably walk outside.
I was excitedly anticipating my first white Christmas, but that didn’t materialize. It did snow lightly on Christmas eve on our way to a Christmas party with friends, but it was light and mixed with rain, and had disappeared by Christmas morning. I was a little disappointed, but only because I wouldn’t have a picture of me playing in the snow. I was relieved too that it wouldn’t be colder than it already was.
My sister and her family live in the borough of Queens, and Manhattan with its dazzling, imaginative display of colorful holiday lights is a short train ride away. Here are pictures of the fabulous Christmas display of some Manhattan establishments.
I had been in New York City before during the summer and late winter. But this Christmas season is when I saw so many people gathered in the city. I changed my mind and decided not to go the New Year’s eve celebration at Times Square when I went out a few days before Christmas. With my 10-year-old nephew, crossing the street took a very long time because of so many other people there. I didn’t want to be crushed by the tens of thousands of people sure to be on site, or pass out by standing there for hours in the cold.
I’m in New York for a little over a month. I had planned to visit a lot of places, but had managed to go to only a few because I couldn’t manage to stay out long in the cold. Winter days are short as it gets dark before 5pm.
It’s great to experience Christmas in New York, but I miss the genuine Christmas spirit in the Philippines. Filipinos try their best to recreate Filipino-style Christmas abroad, but it’s just not the same. But I’m glad to spend the holidays with my sister and her family for the first time after 6 long years.
My first New York Christmas experience was great. But I don’t intend to go back to New York in winter time. I really can’t stand the cold. But, who knows what tomorrow brings?