Then and Now: Holiday Season in Midtown

BY and


Midtown’s busy sidewalks and shimmering decorations are trademarks of the holiday season in Manhattan. A special visit to Macy’s Santa, window-watching on Fifth Avenue and ice-skating beneath the Rockefeller Christmas tree are among the many holiday traditions enjoyed by children, grown-ups, and tourists alike.

According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the total number of tourists in New York City for 2011 will likely reach 50 million. Last year there were 48.8 million tourists, and direct visitor spending was $31.5 billion.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, which will come down on January 7, is illuminated from 5:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. daily, except on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. On Christmas, the tree is illuminated for 24 hours and on New Year’s Eve the lights go off at 9:00 p.m. The Christmas tree is typically a Norway Spruce and should be at least 65 feet tall and 35 feet wide. Over five miles of lights are used to decorate the tree every year. It is recycled and the 3 tons of mulch are donated to the Boy Scouts. Part of the trunk is given to an equestrian team in New Jersey to use as an obstacle jump.

The first Rockefeller Christmas tree in 1931. Photo:

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 2011. Photo: Carolina Kung












Macy’s Windows

Every year, Macy’s, at 151 W. 34th Street, features two series of window displays; one set depicts scenes from the Christmas film “Miracle on 34th Street,” and a second set is new each year. The window displays are typically unveiled in early- to mid-November, and are always on view in time for Thanksgiving.

2011 “Make A Wish” Window Displays: This year Macy’s windows are inspired by a partnership with Make A Wish, a foundation that grants the wishes of children of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Through a touch screen, visitors can design their own ornaments, which can then be purchased.

Last minute Chistmas Eve shoppers gather in front of Macy's window display in New York, Dec. 24, 1946. Photo: AP/Carl Nesensohn.


Macy’s “Make a Wish” window display on December 2011. Photo: Anna Irrera










Skating at Rockefeller Center

A couple skate, after getting engaged on the Rockefeller ice rink in December 2011. Photo: Anna Irrera.

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and his wife Ethel ice skate at a party for staff at Rockefeller Center Ice Skating rink in New York City, Jan. 24, 1968. Photo: AP/Marty Lederhandler












Saks Fifth Avenue’s Window Displays
This year’s windows at Saks Fifth Avenue, “Land of the Bubble Makers,” continue the storybook theme with Holly visiting the land of the bubble makers. Each window illustrates a scene from the story and features fashions as well.

The Saks Fifth Avenue “Land of the Bubble Makers” window display in December 2011. Photo: Anna Irrera.

The Saks Fifth Avenue window display in December 1920. (Photo:









Macy’s Santa

Macy's Santa Claus in 1942. Photo:

Macy’s Santa Claus poses for pictures in front of the store’s entrance in December 2011. Photo: Anna Irrera.