In New York, the year seems to fly by from mid-November. There's family-focused Thanksgiving, the start of winter, crazed shoppers, all manner of religious holidays, and then WHAM! It’s a new year.
It’s often hard to keep up, but I make myself find time to pause, take stock and remember why, despite the chaos, this time of year in New York City is still my favourite.
It all begins with Thanksgiving, my all-time favourite American holiday. Families travel from the far reaches of the country to come together for two days, share meals and appreciate what they have. There is no religious tie to Thanksgiving, so it naturally is the all-inclusive, national holiday. It’s probably more significant than Christmas, because even that religious holiday shares its December spotlight with Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, both respectively recognised by Jewish and African-American communities.
The season is also marked by magical (sometimes) slowly falling snow, wonderfully over-the-top holiday lights on apartments and houses across Brooklyn neighbourhoods, (hopefully) spectacular white, fluffy landscapes, ice-skating in the parks, markets with hot apple cider, sledding on hills just outside my door (if it does snow), wonky gingerbread houses, and mounds of freshly-baked cookies. Mountains of them.
Meanwhile, we’re building our family’s holiday traditions, which are still a work in progress as our 3 year old daughter, Lucia, grows more aware of what it all means.
We’ll spend Christmas morning unwrapping gifts (many sent from afar) before strolling around Manhattan checking out the Rockefeller tree and looking at holiday window displays at the major department stores. We’ll even try and squeeze in a Skype session with family across the world. The evening of Christmas Day will be spent with friends, but it’ll be back to work on December 26.
Probably because no religious holiday dominates in New York City, there are no extended vacations at this time of year. Offices tend to stay open, closing only for Christmas Day and maybe a day on either side, as well as New Year’s Eve and January 1. My office will open on Christmas Eve for half a day, and I know many people will not take any extra time off. The two weeks of annual leave that we are granted are precious, and probably best saved for warmer months when schools are also closed for summer break.
And in this part of the northern hemisphere, I have to keep reminding myself that there is no Boxing Day (a British tradition), definitely no cricket, no late-December BBQs, and certainly no weeks of vacation time spent lazing on the beach.
In recent years there have been occasional blizzards, though, and I’ll gladly take those if it means more warm cider and cookies.