Where the City’s Classic Christmas Tales Come to Life

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Living in New York City over the Christmas holidays is a bit like living in a children’s storybook.  Everything is brightly colored, brightly lit, boldly labeled, and somewhat overpriced. Families who are content to experience the season secondhand have a variety of actual books to choose from, including “A Very New York Christmas,” “Christmas in New York: A Pop Up Book,” “The Twelve Days of Christmas in New York City,” “The Rockefeller Christmas Tree: The History and Lore of the World’s Most Famous Christmas Tree” and many, many more.

But, for the adventurous clan that wishes to venture out into the city and viscerally experience this happiest time of the year for themselves – while still keeping in the literary spirit, Manhattan offers a pair of classic Christmas tale locations that you can see, hear, touch and smell (tasting not recommended).

Miracle Mile
Perhaps no novel better captures the appropriate atmosphere than 1947’s “Miracle on 34th St.” (made most famous by the film that came out the same year, starring an almost impossibly tiny and precocious Natalie Wood).  Sixty-five years later, the Macy’s Department store where Kris Kringle made his legally recognized bid for legitimacy is still there, still on 34th St.  And the latest version of Santa is still holding court on the 8th floor.

photo courtesy of flickr4jazz via Creative Commons

St. App
Of course, this being 2012, not 1947, ol’ St. Nick now has an app.  Select the Herald Square Store option and book your express VIP pass to Santaland (no waiting) on-line via iPhone or Android.  There’s an additional free holiday music download from Manheim Steamroller.  Because that’s how Santa rolls these days.

Yes, We Can
Along more traditional lines, however (no electronics required), for the 35th time since 1976, Macy’s Puppet Theater will be presenting its annual holiday production, this year featuring a brand new version of “Yes, Virginia: The Musical,” based on a letter eight year old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the editor of “The New York Sun” in 1897, which triggered the internationally famous editorial, “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus.”  (And the century worth of parodies, afterward.)

Since its initial publication, the plea for faith and belief during the holiday season has been turned into a picture book, an animated TV movie, and a live action TV movie.  And then another animated TV movie.  Probably because the work is in the public domain by now.  And because Macy’s sponsored most of them.

Now, Macy’s Puppet Theater is bringing the beloved tale to life in a new way as a musical, featuring the voices of an all-star Broadway cast.  The Puppet Theater is open to the general public Friday through Sunday.  Tickets are $5 per person and are free for children under 2.


School Work
For those who absolutely love it, the script and score on display at Macy’s through December 24 were developed to be put on by schools and are, in fact, available for no-fee to accredited institutions.

photo courtesy of The Studio School


Meanwhile, in another only-in-NYC connection, the home that Virginia O’Hanlon lived in when she wrote her thought-provoking letter is now a school, The Studio School on the Upper West Side.  In fact, the private Nursery through 8th grade school even offers a scholarship in her name.

Curious kiddos who want to know more about the little girl who wrote the letter that inspired the editorial that became a movie that became a cartoon that became a book that became a musical can click here to see a photo of the original home in 1897, and how it looks now, plus read letters of remembrance from her family.  Or just stop by in person and see for yourselves!


Got your own hidden gem of NYC Christmas history?  Let us know!

Written by: Alina Adams