It’s almost impossible to believe that it’s already December and the end of the semester is fast approaching. It feels like just yesterday that we were finishing up our summer vacations, packing up our dorm room bedding and gearing up for another fall season here at Barnard. But it’s not just the chilly air and whipping wind down Claremont that remind us that winter is upon us, it’s also the garland wrapped gates and white lights smattered across campus. There’s no doubt that the holidays are here! While many think of this time of year as one filled with exams, term papers and stress, I think we should all try to focus more on the joy of the Christmas season. No matter what religion you may practice, all of us can appreciate the Christmas spirit. Yes, this time may be a busy one, but we all must try hard to find time to appreciate these December pleasures, especially here in New York. There’s no doubt that this city does Christmas right. I’ve tried to highlight a few of my personal favorite New York Christmastime traditions, mixing holiday shopping, food, family, friends, and most importantly, opportunities to give back.
First and foremost, one cannot say they’ve experienced a New York Christmas without a nice long walk down 5th Avenue. Give yourself a break from studying, bundle up and take the 1 train down to 59th street. Bring some friends and walk across Central Park South. Notice the Swarovski crystal ball hanging above the avenue and gaze downtown. The entire street is lit and the hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers create a divine little Christmas wonderland. Wander south passing store windows at Bergdorfs, Cartier’s building tied in a gargantuan red bow, stop in to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a view of the nativity scene, gaze in awe at Saks’s windows, then buy your mom a nice new bottle of perfume to wrap up and make her day. Then, turn left into Rockefeller Center for that breathtaking look at the white angels leading up to the majestic tree. If you’re feeling up to it, take a stab at that long line for ice skating right in the center of it all. Or, if you’re like me, head to Bryant Park for an equally romantic but less pricey and crowded skate there. Take in the holiday markets that surround the park and then head over to Grand Central for the Christmas light show in the main rotunda. Shh! Don't tell anyone but there's also a rink over at the Standard Hotel!
By this point, you’re probably exhausted and cold, and certainly ready for some Christmas treats. Hop on a subway uptown for a trip to Ladurée for the best macaroons in the city. Stop in to Sarabeth’s for a cozy cappuccino and if you’re really feeling ambitious, head to the Met for their own outstanding traditional Christmas exhibit. Throughout the day I’m sure you’ll stop in to one of the many stores hoping to find gifts for all the people on your list but remember, it’s the thought that counts—not the price tag. In my opinion, spare your wallet from the Upper East Side and create a photo album for your best friend, buy your dad his next new favorite novel and bake a batch of Christmas cookies for your sisters.
But we cannot forget that holidays are not just about jingle bells, fruitcakes, and ugly sweaters, it’s also the time give back to those in need. Pick a Saturday to help out at a soup kitchen, donate your old clothing to St. John the Divine’s drive, or deliver meals to seniors in the area. Use this time to reflect on yourself, your friends and your passions. Thank those in your life who have helped you along the way. Write in a journal. Bring soup to your neighbor down the hall who may have come down with a winter bug. Take time to rest. Allow yourself to call it a night instead of slaving away into the latest of hours on your final research project. Hold the door for your peers and be sensitive to the fact that we’re all struggling with the immense pressure that comes with the end of the semester.
The Christmas spirit is one of giving. Give to yourself. Give to others. Enjoy the fact that we’re young, living in the greatest city in the world, and surrounded by so many wonderful friends. Soak in this time before we all go our separate ways for winter break. It’s time to turn up the holiday music, paint your nails a ruby red and take in a true New York Christmas.