The particular magic of the holiday season depends, you might say, on a sensation of general cheer, the feeling that many others are delighting in the same traditions, festivities, and rituals as you are. In a way, the mass celebration of major holidays is a kind of temporary reminder of the type of cultural solidarity which, for many people, appears infrequently if at all in today's heterogeneic social landscape. It's a brief time when a kind of order appears: adults with gifts, children with candy-canes, the ice-skating, these are the signs you can count on.
Perhaps this is the reason why being in New York for Christmas is always something especially memorable: simply that there are so many fellow revelers. For a short period, the throngs of New Yorkers on the street cease to be merely other commuters or annoyingly slow moving tourists. Instead, they are partners in the feeling of the season.
From Miracle on 34th Street and before to more recent films, songs, and other media, New York has long figured prominently in the mythology of the Christmas season in the popular imagination. If you've never had the chance to stroll down Park or Madison Avenue in late December, with the lights and displays all ablaze with festive celebration, this year just might be your chance!
The Rockefeller Center tree is already up and lit and the iceskating there has begun. Performances of Handel's Messiah and Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, perennial December favorites, are already getting going. The NY Phil, for example, performs the former beginning for several nights, beginning December 16th.
This winter season in New York also brings back Restaurant Week, one of the only times during the year when you can eat at some of the most exquisite restaurants in the city, for only a fraction of the normal cost. Dates for this year are still to be announced, but look for them soon. The event will take place before the end of January.