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This year we kicked off the Holiday Season by traveling to New York to celebrate with family and to experience one of the great American traditions of going to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Walking down to our spot in lower Mid Town on 6th Avenue, the sidewalks quickly filled and we soon found ourselves standing shoulder to shoulder with people from all over the country as well as local New Yorkers, all bundled in warm coats, hats and scarves.  We watched the marching bands, floats and balloons make their way through the sky scraper canyon, where we saw everything from the iconic Mr. Peanut with his top hat and monocle riding atop his peanut-mobile…

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Mr. Peanut’s dab was a big hit in the parade

… to the surreal vision of the pre-historic saber-toothed squirrel Scrat chasing a three story acorn floating down the avenue.

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Scrat bounding though the building of 6th Avenue.

This of course culminated with Santa in his sleigh, loaded down with a giant red bag filled with presents, being pulled by reindeer, waving to all those lining the streets, signaling that Christmas is right around the corner.

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Santa is coming to town!

Wandering through some of our favorite places, we saw other signs of the season like the skating rink at Bryant Park or the great Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, which would soon be lit …

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Tree lighting at Rockefeller Center

…or a more subtle vision, like strolling one evening through Washington Square where the up-lit arch that celebrates the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration frames a view of a lighted tree in the park with the Empire State Building glowing in red and green in the distance.

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Washington Square’s arch and surrounding holiday lights

As a father of two girls, no visit to New York at this time of year would be complete without a little shopping.  My favorite part of this is another great seasonal tradition of the city – the elaborate decorations of the store windows.  Dating back to 1874, Macy’s would become one of the first to set up a major Holiday window display, with a collection of porcelain dolls from around the world.  The ideas would soon spread, “window shopping” would become part of holiday vernacular and soon lines were forming to see the opening of the season’s windows.  Competing stores would vie against one another to create the most dramatic displays, vowing to “out do” one another as they we attracting visitors to their stores.

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Shoppers in 1946 line up to see the window displays at Macy’s

Today, a garland filled arcade strung with lights sparkles as it frames the windows of Lord & Taylor where the windows are tilled with visions of a Winter Wonderland along Fifth Avenue.

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Claire and Ella window shopping

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: A general view of the Lord & Taylor store exterior before the unveiling of the Lord & Taylor NYC 2016 Holiday Windows with Daya on November 10, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Lord & Taylor)

Lord & Taylors windows glowing at night

Here spectacular animatronic scenes are actually created in a sub-basement where artists create each year’s window decoration and then they are lifted hydraulically into the window for the dramatic unveiling event.  These windows took a team of 75 nine months to complete, with designers, craftsmen and engineers putting in over 35,000 hours to complete this monumental annual task. This year, they returned to an old tradition of not featuring the stores goods, but instead focusing on the theme of the season- The Enchanted Forest – where various animals playfully fill a winter scenes.

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A gaggle of geese snow-shoeing through the forest

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A snow covered bear and playing with mice dressed for the season

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Raccoons dancing above a mother fox and her kits in their burrow

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A mother Owl perched in her nest, protecting her newborns

Not too much further down the Avenue, Saks Fifth Avenue created a light display that covered the façade of their building, where a “Land of 1,000 Delights” entertained passer-byes.

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Land of a 1000 Delights as seen from Rockefeller Center

Bloomingdales collaborated with a group of visual artists known for their dramatic works to create a series of chandeliers to fill their windows, bringing light to the street theater.  This includes works by Abby Modell, Imma Barrero and Allison Eden among others to create light filled visions.

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“Moon Glow” by glass artist Abbey Modell

Bloomingdale’s 2016 : Holiday Window Unveiling

Imma Barrero’s light sculpture

Bloomingdale’s 2016 : Holiday Window Unveiling

Allison Eden’s “Sparkle” lights up an underwater world

Perhaps my favorite set of windows were those of Bergdorf Goodman, where “green” was the theme in their “Destination Extraordinary” where wild scenes of lush gardens, jungles, or even cactus filled deserts filled the windows like classic, over the top dioramas, created from beads and baubles, fabrics  and feathers – all in varying shades of green.  The senior director of visual presentation, explains that they were inspired by the drama of nature, the exhibits of the natural history museum as well as the painting of Henri Rousseau and 12th century Chinese landscape watercolors.  A close up of one of the apes in the “Book Club” window display shows the amount of detail put to each of these designs –  notice the beads and baubles pinned up on the walls in their work studio.

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Details found in the making

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A jungle gathering for the “Book Club”

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Walking the tight rope in “The Scenic Route”

Bergdorf Goodman’s team involves over 100 artisans during their nine month planning and fabrication of the window displays, culminated in a two week final installation.  Like dressing the actors in a play, the elements of high fashion within the display are just as important as their setting, with each piece telling a part of the story.

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Damsel finding herself “Winging It” in the winter garden

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A Bird’s Eye View

In a scene that reminded me of trips through West Texas, where in this window a high fashion, giant jack rabbit provides a ride through a cactus filled landscape

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Reminding me a bit of the lore of Texas in “Hitchhiking”

After seeing the best of window shopping this year, I cannot wait to see what the creative minds and nimble hands of these designers and craftsmen come up with next year. Here’s wishing you a most Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!