As we move swiftly into the holiday season, and I approach the end of my first semester at St John’s, it seems appropriate for me to reflect upon what the lead up to Christmas is like here in New York City compared to my home town of London, in the United Kingdom.
Most striking is the earliness with which decorations go up, and the speed with which the Christmas spirit permeates into everyday life. With the end of Thanksgiving, and the instant arrival of Black Friday (a somewhat new experience I can tell you), come the trees, lights, and ornaments that in many ways define what Christmas means to us in the modern age, at least in a visual sense.
This immediate and marked transition into the Christmas period is, and I say this as a pronounced skeptic of the holiday season, nothing short of infectious. To be in New York City, illuminated by Christmas lights and with the Rockefeller Center tree at its center, is a truly unique and heartwarming experience, if only for the elaborateness and splendor with which the holidays are celebrated in this part of the world.
Thanksgiving itself was a new enough experience for me, and I was lucky enough to be invited to upstate New York by a particularly generous friend to spend the weekend at their home. The experience was extremely pleasant and relaxing – a sentiment that I’m certain was shared by many as they spent this past weekend with family and friends and took advantage of a well-deserved break in the lead up to finals’ week. Although I come from a decidedly foreign land, I was made to feel more than welcome in regards to the festivities, and the experience makes me feel as though I have been just a little more assimilated into American culture, something for which I am extremely thankful.
The communal and familial spirit that characterized Thanksgiving has shown no signs of slowing; in fact, quite the opposite. Fifth Avenue and Broadway look as spectacular as anyone would imagine, and it cannot be denied that Christmas time has well and truly arrived here in New York City. In London the Christmas spirit will not make an appearance for at least a couple of weeks, and even when it does it is unlikely to reach the levels felt here in the United States even a month before Christmas Day. It is truly a testament to the inhabitants of this city that such a community-minded spirit has been cultivated, and it certainly makes New York a warmer and more welcoming place to live.
Although it is regrettable that I will not be spending the entirety of the Christmas break here in New York, I am immensely grateful that I have even had the opportunity to revel in the preparations and the lead-up to Christmas Day. I will be sad to leave in a few weeks, but while I remain here I intend to take full advantage of the chance to see the city in full holiday-mode, and return in January with the image still at the forefront of my mind.