Christmas In New York City: Expectations Vs. Reality

Serendipity (2001)

Serendipity (2001)

Before moving to the city, I imagined Christmas in New York to be exactly how it is depicted in films: perfect. I seamlessly blended together the scenes in movies with my understanding of reality. I was so sure that my first Christmas in New York City would see me living in a winter wonderland reminiscent of the ones seen in Serendipity and Home Alone. I imagined every street in the city would be transformed into a tunnel of twinkling lights with garlands strung from lamppost to lamppost, candles flickering in windows. I imagined I would have been first in line to see the Rockefeller tree lighting and then I’d spend ample evenings skating at the rink bellow, arm and arm with my boyfriend.

I supposed that I would wear a peacoat every day and that I would replace coffee with hot chocolate. I could just about hear the carols that would fill the streets. I envisioned the overstuffed shopping bags from Bergdorf’s and Barneys that I would tote along Fifth Avenue. The snow would fall just right, dusting everything with a glistening veil of white. I saw this world so clearly that when December fourteenth–just ten days before Christmas–came and passed and I still hadn’t skated, drank a sip of hot chocolate or even heard the chorus of a Christmas choir, I was shocked at my own naiveté. How had I been so wrong?

In reality, very few streets are actually strung with lights and none of them are anywhere near my apartment. The weather is absolutely freezing and being outside for more than five minutes feels like a special brand of torture. The snow doesn’t fall in delicate flakes but rather is heavy and wet. I have long since retired my peacoat in lieu of my oversized parka that is much less festive but much more practical.

In my attempt to go ice-skating I found that the cost to skate at Rockefeller was quite hefty and with my growing gift list just wasn’t doable. Barney and Bergdorf’s much like the rink became luxuries that just weren’t in the cards for this struggling writer. And on top of it all I still couldn’t bring myself to order a hot chocolate instead of a coffee because without the caffeine I am sure I would cease to exist and thus not finish all the impending work that didn’t cease to exist even though it’s Christmas time.

So now, I’m sitting in my room, the furnace humming beside me, contemplating turning my air-conditioning on for a moment to combat the sweltering heat while watching the snow fall out my window and wallowing in my own disappointment. The red light of the building that I was once convinced was the Empire State Building keeps pulsing in the night sky.

You can reach this post's author, Tara Dalbow, on twitter.
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    • Lindsey Conklin

      I really love this post! So cozy and so true about NYC. (btw 72nd and 3rd has every tree strung with white lights…so beautiful I wish all the streets were like that!)