This time of year typically ranks among my favorite when it comes to living in New York City. The neighborhoods get all dressed up in festive style, the social calendar fills with so many opportunities brimming with cheer and there’s no shortage of ways to celebrate the holiday season. Needless to say, this year has been different.
Largely thanks to shoots I needed to do I’ve managed to safely fit in a few holiday walks about town that allowed me to take in some of the decorations that still went up. I visited the Rockefeller Tree briefly, took in the tree at the Palace Hotel, watched the light show at Saks Fifth Avenue and took myself on walks around my neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights as well as the West Village to see the homes all decorated.
But this year the city sidewalks aren’t filled with bustling shoppers or loads of kids with their eyes filled with wonder at the Christmas trees. Some spots I usually cherish spending time at aren’t even open again since closing at the onset of the pandemic. The performances we usually attend – The NY Pops, The Nutcracker, The Rockettes and more – the venues all remain shuttered. And some timeless decor just didn’t go up at all.
I’ve done my best to share the festive season in NYC here on wit & whimsy and on my Instagram and my messages as a result have been filled with notes of gratitude from people who typically come to the city this time of year as an annual voyage to take in the holiday sights. They’re happy to see things from afar. I know how so many people wish they were able to be here right now. But I’m glad they’re not because honestly the city can’t afford visitors right now due to rising cases and also because the city just doesn’t feel like it usually does this time of year.
All of this has felt very bittersweet this year to say the least. The restaurants aren’t filled with people celebrating, there are no office parties, no annual Christmas outings with friends, no stores filled with shoppers and so, so many traditions have been tabled till hopefully next year. And the Christmas spirit shared amidst New Yorkers and tourists alike often through smiles and well wishes have been hidden behind masks. It’s a holiday season like I’ve never seen before in my nearly 10 years here and one I hope to not repeat ever again.
I said to a friend the other day that I imagine the next holiday season – if people are able to once again safely travel and we’ve largely all been immunized – I imagine the streets of the city will be even more full of New Yorkers and visitors so many of whom will have felt like they missed out on the 2020 season. I hope I can remember to enjoy the hustle and bustle and crowds when that time comes and to know we’re all celebrating both the holidays and a new sense of freedom following 2020’s months of restrictions and cancelled plans.