A Kink to Xmas


We’ve come a long way indeed from those Dickensian Christmases of old; each passing year bringing a newfangled style of yuletide diversion. Now the proprietors of one Chelsea (Manhattan) boutique are even catering to those who are into more bizarre, leather-based festivities…with accompanying chains, rubber gear, and recalcitrant attitudes.

Nasty Pig sells a combination of casual men’s clothing and fetish gear, so it makes sense that their Christmas windows are just a tad kinkier than the usual holiday display. Stylist Polar Buranasatit dressed two Rootstein mannequins as a beardless Santa and his harness-wearing sidekick Rudolph. {read more} Racked/ photo gallery

What would Marley’s Ghost have to say to all of this? Then again, he was into chains himself.


The Heart of the ESB


Many people associate the Empire State Building observatory with meetings between lovers. Movies such as “An Affair to Remember” and “Sleepless in Seattle” have helped to cement the romantic associations of the famous skyscraper. To add to the Empire State Building’s [romantic allure], every year 14 lucky couples win the chance to get married on the 80th floor of the Empire State Building….For these reasons a history of the Empire State Building seemed a very appropriate Valentine’s Day issue of New York history. via-The history of New York’s most romantic Valentine’s Day spot – New York History | Examiner.com.

The ESB is certainly no slouch when it comes to romance; indeed, its very prominence is suggestive of romanticism. For a building that rose from the depths of the Great Depression to such majestic heights, it did well for itself: rightly considered one of humankind’s greatest architectural achievements. A lot of love–from the creative to the covetous, the joyful to sorrowful, the requited to unrequited– went into such an endeavor; an appropriate paradigm for the love we feel this Valentine’s Day.


Sublime Yuletide Tree


The Metropolitan Museum of Art continues a longstanding holiday tradition with the presentation of its Christmas tree, a favorite of New Yorkers and visitors from around the world. A vivid eighteenth-century Neapolitan Nativity scene—embellished with a profuse array of diminutive, lifelike attendant figures and silk-robed angels hovering above—adorns the candlelit spruce. Recorded music and lighting ceremonies add to the enjoyment of the holiday display. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is magnificent and very large, but, insofar as my wife and I are concerned, the Met’s Tree is sublime; a work of art amid a venue of art.

Tripping the Heights Fantastic Lights


When I was a kid, it was traditional to drive around Brooklyn at night to observe and admire the Christmas lights. The unique and dazzling displays that ornamented many a home were a wonder to behold. Things were simpler and more modestly presented in those days. Christmas hadn’t yet taken on its more high-tech allure; the twinkling gizmoes and glistening gadgets of the 1950s/ 1960s lacked today’s more dynamic ornamentation.

Nevertheless, the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn remains true to its tradition of marvelous and fantastic Christmas lighting. Particularly in the areas around 12th Avenue between 82nd and 85th Streets and 84th Street near 10th Avenue, a dazzling cynosure of illumination emerges each year. From glittering star-pattern arrangements to virtual dioramas of sparkling motion, these residents outdo each other (and themselves) with increasingly elaborate displays that are often true works of art. So much so that the “Dyker Lights” (as it’s now referred to) has become famous, attracting crowds from all over the world. Tour buses include Dyker Heights on their Christmastime itinerary (the Christmas Lights &  Cannoli Tour, for example).


However, this doesn’t always sit well with residents in this quiet part of town, in a less ostentatious and less merry mood. As opposed to their more brightly-adorned and joyfully popular neighbors, they view the neighborhood’s seasonal star status as a curse rather than a blessing . Carloads and busloads of sightseers streaming through the narrow streets, along with spectators wandering across front yards and down backyards of adjacent houses, are activities bound to dampen holiday spirits.


Many heated arguments have occurred in stark contrast to the festivities; a few lawsuits have been filed and served under the mistletoe. Come January, when these Christmas artistes of wondrously colorful lights finally turn off the festive juice, they find that they receive colder greetings and have fewer friends. But that’s show biz in an age desirous of the more spectacular and novel in life’s otherwise mundane affairs.

Photos/ Video: Gothamist

Winstanley: A True Spirit of Christmas Past

Four centuries ago, when England erupted in civil war, Christmas there was in a sorry state. In 1644, the victorious Puritan faction outlined its numerous and fundamentalist decrees by completely banning the holiday. They saw Christmas as a solemn, pious occasion and opposed the drunken debauchery and revelries that, in their opinion, had distorted its religious significance. In addition to this, the Puritans also objected to the name itself: Christmas (“Christ’s Mass“) resounded with Roman Catholicism; the ultimate anathema to Puritanism. They changed the name to “Christ’s Tide” and celebrated the day in a quite subdued manner…with fasting!

These Puritans weren’t joking; they made their menacing presence known to one and all in a not very merry old England. Soldiers patrolled the streets and would fine or arrest anyone holding church service, along with entering households and seizing any food they suspected would be used for festive purposes. Markets and shops were forced to remain open, as on any other day, and anyone with a restful holiday in mind would have done better to leave the country for good. Violators of the Puritan’s “Christ’s Tide” jamboree could find themselves celebrating Christmas Day in the stocks.

With Cromwell’s vainglorious triumph in 1646, Britain was consigned to being a country without a Christmas for eighteen desolate years. Whereas Jacob Marley was as dead as a doornail, Christmas in England had become deader than ten million doornails on the doors of ten million mausoleums.

However, as the human spirit endures so did the spirit of Christmas. Despite the injunction, secret festivities continued to be held. One of these secret merrymakers was a diarist and writer by the name of William Winstanley (his story has recently been unearthed by historian Alison Barnes). He lived in a Tudor farmhouse at Quendon, a village between Bishop’s Stortford and Saffron Walden. When the doors of the parish church were locked on Christmas against worshipers, the Winstanley family held its own secretive carol services; an open house to all who knew their secret. With Cromwell on the throne of dictatorship, these were dangerous times and spies were constantly lurking in the shadows.

Winstanley was far from being a capricious party animal, risking life and liberty merely to eat, drink and be merry. He was an educated man: amateur historian, lover of folklore and, despite being a Royalist politically, was also a pious Puritan.

As Alison Barnes writes: “He believed it was the duty of all Christians to celebrate the birth of their Saviour, with joyous festivity and open-handed generosity towards friends, relations and more especially the poor.” In spite of political extremism, religious fanaticism, and militaristic oppression, he would not cease in his ways nor buckle under their dictates.

In 1658, Cromwell performed the one noble deed for which the British people granted him their heartfelt and eternal gratitude…he died.

Charles II, the executed king’s son, was restored to the throne and the anti-Christmas mandate was repealed. However, Christmas merriment didn’t instantly return for one outstanding reason: after eighteen lean and hungry years of Yuletide fasts, most people had forgotten what being merry was all about.

This was Winstanley’s moment of glory; a time for overt joy and goodwill. Already an accomplished writer of poems, pamphlets and books, he had influential friends and acquaintances in the highest echelons of British society. He lobbied earls and lords, even the King himself, to open their houses as examples of Christmas cheer. He believed that nobleman and commoner, peasant and pauper, alike would benefit from having a royally sanctioned time of festivity to carry them through the bleak winter.

For over 38 years, Winstanley not only resurrected but seemed to be re-inventing Christmas as he went along. He instructed the nation on long-forgotten festivities, frolicsome games, sumptuous repasts, solemn and mirthful carols, and any other physical or spiritual incidental that would help make Christmas even more festive. Up until the time of his death, he was a sort of Puritan Santa Claus who merely sought to focus the joy of the festivity towards that of the nativity: the birth of Jesus that reasonable Christians would view as a reasonable time to be joyous. By the late 1680s, Christmas was restored to England…it would be further enhanced throughout the country and throughout the world. A formidable legacy for a man who was forgotten for such a long time.

Source: Mail Online

Santas of Christmases Past


A Santa taking a “coffee break” during NYC Christmas season. December 1962.

It’s been 112 years since 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon of West 95th Street asked if there was a Santa Claus. An open letter back to the girl ended with: “No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.” {read more} Gothamist (Photo Gallery)

Independence Day – The Fourth Of July

Romancing the Bee

It seems very odd to celebrate the United States’ declaration of independence from Great Britain  just a few days after my return from the  beloved Mother Country.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I believe the two countries could be united very comfortably these days.  The “Special Relationship” and all…

But in 1776, Great Britain had long been a great nation of pomp and circumstance, while the New World was a wilderness populated with radical thinkers, adventurers, and sundry undesirables.  We were a troublesome colony, and revolution was inevitable.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my country.  I’ll post about the celebratory fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, and concerts.

But I’ll remember that most of the rights and freedoms we enjoy today are those we brought with us from England.  And I remain convinced that our English heritage is stronger than the forces that drove us apart.


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Easter Sweets

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Easter goodies on sale in NYC