While walking my dog through Metrotech Commons the day after Thanksgiving, I witnessed the tallest Christmas tree in Brooklyn having its lights tested. At 7:30 in the morning it was a true New York moment, a smile-inducing, flash of joy for what is to come this month. It is December after all! The close of 2017. A time when the city comes alive with holiday festivities (and the tourists who love all we have to offer). You can join my fellow Downtown Brooklynites as we Light Up The Holidays @ Metrotech on Tuesday 12/5 starting at 4pm, or seek out any number of other Christmas tree lightings throughout the five boroughs sure to illuminate your senses. Not to be missed: The Met’s Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche, which is awe-inspiring and lit each day at 4:30pm.
Later in the month, a competition for the world’s largest menorah plays out at two Grand Army Plaza locations (midtown at 59th and Prospect Park) as Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights, kicks off on 12/12. Celebrate the first night at Chanukah on Ice in Central Park at Wollman Rink, now in its 10th year (latkes in tow).
There is plenty more to do outside that is delightful before the weather gets too frightful, including the Christmas Shops at Union Square in full swing along with the Greenmarket (be sure to check the schedule for changes around Christmas). Enjoy all of the region’s best organic produce or if feeling a bit more decadent, try the chocolate covered pretzels at Fatty Sundays that you’ll find in the Little Brooklyn section, where all vendors are BK locals.
Further uptown you’ll want to grab a Wicked hot chocolate from Jacques Torres and walk it off past the iconic stores – Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, to name a few – that bring seasonal sparkle to their holiday windows. For a sneak peek of which ones will take your breath away, check out this holiday windows slideshow from THE CUT.
With all the gifts still to buy, you can expect a surge in holiday pop ups, including Jingle Holiday Pop Up inside Chelsea Market (12/19-23) and my favorite, the La Femme Young & Able Holiday Pop Up at Park Central Hotel across from Carnegie Hall. Now in its fourth year, all the vendors are women owned businesses and besides the Park Central location, you can find them at Refinery Hotel (Daily: 11/23 – 12/31) and Arlo Soho (Saturdays: 11/18, 12/2, 12/9, 12/16, 12/23). Our third pop up rec is Queens Bohemian beer hall in Astoria, which converts to a holiday market full of hand-crafted items and vintage finds (Dec 4, 11, 18).
When you are ready to take it inside and have a seat, Broadway is waiting for you! December is full of exciting theater, including the revival of Once On This Island (in previews and opening 12/3) and the world premiere of SpongeBob Squarepants (in previews and opening 12/4), the latter which caused a bit of a stir following his Thanksgiving Day Parade float appearance (Twitter was not impressed with his hipster frock). Also hitting the stage this month are powerhouses Mark Rylance in Farinelli & The King (previews begin 12/5) and John Lithgow’s Stories By Heart (previews begin 12/21).
Holiday theater comes alive Off Broadway with Irish Rep’s It’s A Wonderful Life presented as a 1940s radio play (closes 12/31), Imbibe: A Spirited History of Drinking (closes 12/30) and Diaspora, a drama that weaves age old tales from Masada (closes 12/23) with a group of young Jewish boy’s Birthright Israel trip.
On the music front, City Winery presents A Swingin’ Little Christmas w/ Jane Lynch (12/3) and over at The Blue Note, Chris Botti is back (12/11-1/7) in residency for the 13th year. Botti’s work is magic and could not be more perfect for the season (you may even find yourself seated next to Sting, who has been known to join Botti on stage). The great Andrea Bocelli plays two shows at Madison Square Garden (12/13-14) and further uptown, Rachel Brown’s Holiday Show at Ginny’s Supper Club in Harlem (12/18, visit the Red Rooster directly above for pre-show dinner) is not to be missed. Or, check out Live from Lincoln Center at The Appel Room, where Broadway stars (this year’s talent includes Stephanie Block, Sutton Foster w/ Jonathan Groff, Andrew Rannells, and Leslie Odom Jr) light up this intimate venue (12/19-22) with charm and vocal prowess.
Meanwhile back in Brooklyn, things get a little sassy at Brooklyn Bowl’s This Party DOES Impress You Much: A Night of All Shania Everything (12/9) before it epitomizes cool with Quest Love and Control the Sound, the latter a band of 12 year-olds who have probably gigged more than many groups twice their age (12/17 at 11:30AM). Later that night, the Family Hanukkah Bowl ft. Rabbi Dan Ain + The New Orleans Klezmer All Stars…because we love us some good klezmer.
Besides the legendary Alvin Ailey at New York City Center (through 12/31), New York City can be a revelation for dance performances throughout the holiday season, particularly if you are a Nutcracker fan. New York City Ballet’s presentation of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (through 12/31) is a must, but also consider the ballet/hip hop hybrid Brooklyn Nutcracker (12/7-12/16) or a second hip hop inspired Nutcracker in Newark, NJ at NJPAC (12/17). When it comes to cinema, get toasty at “Amelie” with Mulled Wine in Williamsburg and “The Man Who Invented Christmas” at The Angelika, starring the highly-acclaimed Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens.
If all this talk of the holidays and winter on the way makes you want to book the first flight to sunny Miami, seek out these events for summer flashback feels. Check out the Dancehall on the Rooftop party at the legendary Copacabana (12/9) and for salsa dancing, Rhum Saturdays at Bembe in Williamsburg. You can even celebrate National Sangria Day (12/20) at Mad Dog & Beans has half off glasses of sangria with the purchase of any entree at either its FiDi location or one in Midtown. And for those of you who still want to be out at sea, Hornblower Cruises & Events has cruises on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, but it’s the Ugly Sweater Holiday Yacht Party we’re most excited departing South Street Seaport (12/19).
As December and 2017 come to a close, remember nearly nothing relieves any holiday blues like a good laugh (and maybe not watching any political news for a few days). Check out Super Sketch Tuesday at People’s Improv Theater (12/12 features Face for Radio) and
The Winter Comedy Series at Dangerfield’s (every Saturday afternoon and Thursday night in December), or give your own holiday humor muscles a workout at Gotham Comedy’s stand-up classes and open mic nights. You can also hear some poetry at Cornelia Street Cafe’s Underground, which has a speakeasy feel and easily transports you to an earlier era.
How about the best way to close out 2017? December 31st will be here before you know it and while we’re excited for the sequins and sparkle, it’s also a great time to do a little end-of-year house cleaning. So Kondo method your home, get clear on what you want for 2018 and give yourself a little R&R (and by that we mean, sleep). Because ringing in the new year relaxing solo or with friends, making your own hot toddy and watching a classic like When Harry Met Sally may be the best way to absorb all the experiences you’ve had this month (and year). See you in 2018!