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Holidays

Festively bonkers: Welcome to the Dyker Heights Christmas light show

Holiday traditions in Manhattan are of course known the world over, from the glowing light displays of Park Avenue to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. But they lack a certain human touch, spun from wealthy corporations and honored tradition. Which is what makes Dyker Height’s annual lighting spectacular (festival? competition? freak show?) so fascinating. It’s Brooklyn’s […]

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Holidays

O Canada! Fifty years ago Rockefeller Center hosts a foreign Christmas tree

The Christmas tree tradition in Rockefeller Center began in 1931, during the Great Depression, when workers constructing the visionary shopping center, office space and transportation hub first erected a modest tree within the excavation. Every Christmas tree placed here after that was shipped in from upstate New York, New Jersey or somewhere in New England. […]

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Holidays

Five New York Landmarks get into the Halloween spirit

New York has a great many naturally spooky historical places, so it’s great to see a few of them get into the Halloween holiday spirit. Here are five places to visit this week if eating candy in a wig just isn’t enough for you. NOTE: These sorts of events sell out quickly so inquire with […]

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Holidays

Midnight in Times Square: The history of New Year’s Eve in New York City

PODCAST The tale of New York City’s biggest annual party from its inception on New Years Eve 1904 to the magnificent spectacle of the 21st century.  In this episode, we look back on the one day of the year that New Yorkers look forward. New Years Eve is the one night that millions of people […]

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Holidays

Making Green: The history of New York’s Christmas tree market

For many, the Christmas holiday in New York City finally comes to life when the sidewalks sprout evergreens. The sight and smell of curbside Christmas tree sellers ushers in the season in the most pleasing way. (Pleasing for the passerby; on a rather cold day, I can’t imagine it too pleasing for the seller.) As […]

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Holidays

Wacky, windy and weird: 1964 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Linus the Lion-Hearted at the 1964 Macy’s Parade The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade of 1963 had been a downer of a parade. President John F. Kennedy had just been assassinated a few days before but, deciding that cancelling the event would be “a disappointment to millions of children,” the parade went on as planned. Leading […]

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Holidays

History in the Making 11/24: Big Thanksgiving Rodents Edition

Mickey Mouse at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1980 (courtesy the Museum of the City of New York)  The Christmas Trash Strike of 1981 My new story for A24 Films and A Most Violent Year is up — a look at the strike by the New York sanitation department which kept New Yorkers in feet of […]

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Holidays

On this Veteran’s Day, a salute to the Harlem Hellfighters!

The men of the 369th who were awarded France’s Criox de Guerre for distinguished acts of heroism:  Pvt. Ed Williams, Herbert Taylor, Pvt. Leon Fraitor, Pvt. Ralph Hawkins. Back Row: Sgt. H. D. Prinas, Sgt. Dan Strorms, Pvt. Joe Williams, Pvt. Alfred Hanley, and Cpl. T. W. Taylor New York’s 369th Infantry Regiment was America’s […]

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Holidays

Happy Rosh Hashanah! Images of Jewish New Years’ past

Look to the stars children! A vintage Rosh Hashanah card manufactured by the Williamsburg Art Company in the 1920s. Rosh Hashanah is here — the first of Tishrei, year 5775.  Presented here are a selection of photographs from the Library of Congress depicting Jewish New Yorkers celebrating the new year (or, at least, on their […]

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Holidays

Months after the Draft Riots, New York celebrates the first national Thanksgiving, in the shadow of war and lunar eclipse

Above: A Thomas Nast illustration from Harper’s Weekly, November 1863, clearly putting the event in the context of war and hardship.  In practice, Thanksgiving celebrates the supposed feast between the Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors in Massachusetts. But meals of ‘thanksgiving’ have been part of the Western world customs for hundreds of years, and […]

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Holidays Uncategorized

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! A tribute to the 69th Regiment

The 69th Regiment — aka the Fighting Irish — have always led New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and have been the heart and soul of New York’s Irish community since the early 19th century.  During the Civil War, they were the first to be called, fighting at the battle of Bull Run. The image […]

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Holidays

Whip it! Early Valentine’s Day custom in old New York involved public displays of flirtatious flagellation

In old New York, there was a curious Valentine’s Day custom involving young women running around town whipping men with rope. Yes, you read that correctly.  This form of socially acceptable violence was popular in the colonial era and extended well into the early 1800s.  It derives from a tradition practiced as part of an […]

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Holidays

Good grief! Madison Avenue’s connection to ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’

The first time: A TV Guide advertisement from 1965 announcing the upcoming Charlie Brown special, “presented … by the people in your town who bottle Coca-Cola.” [source] A Charlie Brown Christmas, the holiday special to end all holiday specials, needed a little encouragement from the Madison Avenue advertising world in 1965 to spring into existence. […]

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Holidays

‘Christmas or Chanukah?’: New Yorkers ‘discover’ the Jewish holiday

Early news reporting on the celebration of Hanukkah (or Chanukah, as it was popularly referred then) in New York usually took a arms-length approach, as most of their readership knew little about the celebration 100 years ago. More than one old Tribune or World carried a variant of the headline ‘Jews Celebrate Chanukah’ , as though there […]

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Holidays

Happy Thanksgiving Masking: The pleasures of mischief, featureless masks and cross-dressing children!

No, these children have not gotten their calendars confused. One early American Thanksgiving tradition amongst rascals and rowdies involved goofy costumes and disguised faces. Sometimes called ‘Thanksgiving masking’, the strange practice stemmed from a satirical perversion of poverty and an ancient tradition of ‘mumming’, where men in costumes floated from door to door, asking for […]