Rockefeller Center and the Christmas Tree for 2013

My wife and I went to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular yesterday night and while we were in the area we decided to look around Rockefeller Center. There are Christmas lights up already, which is nice, and the tree is already in place, but it is surrounded by scaffolding. Judging by the pile of branches on the ground nearby, the tree is being trimmed and shaped prior to being decorated for the holiday season. Maybe I’m just getting used to being around tall structures, but the tree doesn’t look as big as usual this year.

We also walked past the NBC today studio set. It was closed up for the night, but it was still interesting to look in and see where the teleprompters are read.

NBC News Studio by Rockefeller Center
NBC News Studio by Rockefeller Center
Looking into the NBC Studio news set from outside.
Looking into the NBC Studio news set from outside.

I didn’t know Christie’s, the auction house, was by Rockefeller Center, but we saw that too. The big balloon dog sculpture in front of the entrance is pretty cool. I sort of wish there were miniature versions so I could buy one and keep it on a shelf.

Balloon Dog Sculpture at Christie's Auction House
Balloon Dog Sculpture at Christie’s Auction House
A close-up of the balloon dog sculpture.
A close-up of the balloon dog sculpture.
Christie's Auction House window displays.
Christie’s Auction House window displays.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 2011

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 2011 - 1

After seeing the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular last Friday, my wife and I walked over to Rockefeller Center to take a look at the big Christmas tree.  It’s one of those iconic sights that you have to see to say you had the full Christmas tourist experience in the city.  We’re not tourists, but even still, it’s nice to get out and do the tourist thing.  It helps me appreciate the city more and take advantage of what it has to offer, before I suddenly find myself moving somewhere else.  That’s how it’s always been for me.  I keep putting things off and then before I know it, the opportunity has passed and I’ve moved on.  That’s how I wound up never seeing the Carlsbad Caverns, even though I lived in the area for two years.

Rockefeller Christmas Tree 2011 - 2

Anyway, the tree was looking a little wilted, but we did wait until the it had been up for more than a month to came take a look at it.  Next year, I want to take my wife around to see it when it’s still fresh.  She was very amused to see the ice skating rink just below the tree and had a lot of questions about it.  Maybe one of these days I can teach her how to ice skate, though I’m a bit rusty myself.

Rockefeller Center Skating Rink
Rockefeller Center Skating Rink

The Christmas season is winding down.  In just a few days it’ll be the New Year.  Even worse (and better), classes start again on the 3rd.  It’s just one class, for Winter Session, but it’s 4 hours a day, 4 days a week for three weeks.  It should be interesting.  I just hope we can squeeze in a few more sightseeing stops before we run out of time.  We still have to make it back to the Met!  Hopefully we can do that this Friday, when the museum stays open later than normal.  I’d like to take her to the Guggenheim and the American Museum of Natural History too, if possible.

Rockefeller Center Christmas 2011 Angel Decoration

Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular 2011

Radio City Music Hall 2011

Last Friday my wife and I went to see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, starring the Rockettes. It wound up being a really great experience and it was a great way to spend the Friday before Christmas weekend.

Radio City Rockettes - 2011 Christmas Spectacular - 1

I saw the show once before, in 2006, and I was amazed by just how much the show has improved since then. The most memorable moment for me from the previous show was the toy soldiers. I was in the Army at the time and I remember being impressed by just how precise their marching movements were. I was sitting in the first mezzanine so I had the advantage of watching the turns and wheels from above. I’d marched in more than a few parades and military ceremonies so I had personal experience for comparison and the Rockettes were definitely better at it than anyone I knew. They work harder at perfecting parade marching too, though.

Radio City Rockettes - Christmas Spectacular 2011 - Toy Soldiers

This year, the toy soldier segment was just as much fun to watch, but we were sitting in the Orchestra, so the precision of the marching wasn’t as readily apparent. I almost wish I’d picked mezzanine seats instead! We were able to see the finale to the toy soldier portion just fine though:

There were a lot of changes to the show. I think I remember seeing the dance with dozens of Santas in 2006, but this year there was a segment meant to imitate the Rockettes traveling through the city in a tour bus, a portion that simulated a video game and even some 3D stuff that was a lot of fun.

Radio City Rockettes - Christmas Spectacular 2011 - Humbugged in 3D

Overall, the show was a very fun and very memorable way for my wife to spend her first Christmas in New York City. We’re looking forward to going again in a few years.

For a full album of pictures (with descriptions) from the show, click here. The album is on Google+ and won’t require a sign in to view.

A “Bah! Humbug!” Kind of Christmas

A little tree and nativity scene on the dresser.

Ok, so maybe it’s not all that bad.  In fact, it could be a lot worse.  The fact remains, however, that I spent this Christmas apart from my wife, and that seriously put a dent in my holiday spirit.  This year just feels different.  The ‘spirit’ of the holiday seems to have gone around me without touching me.  The lights are up.  The tree is there.  The gifts are under it.  The food was good.  I had family around me.  And yet, without my wife it seems pale.  All I can do is look forward to next year, when we can do things right.  Next Christmas will be extra special.

Some of my photos came out fairly decent, so I thought I’d share a few.

Roast pork, black beans with rice and yuca.

Traditionally, my mom’s side of the family does Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, so last night we had a simple meal of roast pork, black beans with rice and yuca.  It looks simple, but trust me, it tasted great!  We also had cake and homemade oatmeal cookies.

Bacon, frying on a griddle.

Potatoes frying.

Fresh biscuits.

This morning we followed up the dinner with a really good, traditional breakfast of bacon, biscuits and gravy, fried potatoes and eggs.

Christmas isn’t completely without joy this year, but like I said, it’s just not the same.  My wife and I spent every day together for almost 2 and a half years until we had to temporarily part ways.  It really puts a damper on my holiday spirit, and instead of really enjoying this Christmas, it feels more like another step on a path to something more fulfilling, when my wife and I will be together again.  I’m looking forward to it.

Unveiling Christmas Window Displays (Bloomingdales)

Rolling out the red carpet at Bloomingdales.

I happened to be up by Bloomingdales today and they were literally rolling out the red carpet.

Red curtains covering the windows at Bloomingdales.

They also had red curtains covering the windows.

I remembered hearing something on the news about Christmas displays being revealed at another store and they made it come across as a big deal.  I’m surprised that in a city like New York, something as trivial as the unveiling of Christmas window displays is newsworthy.  Of course, since it is such a big deal, I’m curious to know what’s behind those curtains myself.  I suppose I’ll see the next time I pass through.

Some people aren’t quite as patient as I am though.  There was some guy walking back and forth.  I thought he was talking to himself at first but then I realized he was holding what looked like one of those Flip video cameras.  Maybe he was using UStream or something, or just recording.  I don’t know.  Anyway, he tried to get in behind the curtain and got shooed away.  He was laughing about it into the camera, saying he got busted trying to peek in.  Later, I swear I saw the same guy on the TMZ segment on Fox 5.  The guy I saw on the street looked just like the chubby white guy on the show.  Could be coincidence.  Who knows?

Christmas Comes Early in the Philippines

Homemade Christmas decorations in the Philippines.

My wife once told me that Christmas comes early in the Philippines.  She didn’t mean that the date it’s celebrated is any different than any other place, but just that people get into the Christmas spirit earlier than usual.

Where I’m from, the shopping spirit hits a bit early, but that real Christmas spirit doesn’t seem to catch on until at least the day after Thanksgiving.  Obviously, there is no Thanksgiving in the Philippines and while Halloween (trick-or-treating) is celebrated in some posh villages, Christmas is something that most every Filipino gets behind quickly and early.  I think it’s probably because it’s associated with the birth of Christ, and the Philippines has the highest population of Catholics of any country in the world.  It may also have something to do with the poor conditions in the country.  I’m sure a lot of families are looking for an excuse to feel cheerful about something.

As early as last week, we’ve been hearing Christmas songs playing on the speaker systems in some of the malls.  I even saw Christmas decorations for sale already, including plastic trees.

My wife says the rule of thumb in the Philippines is that if the month ends in “-ber”, then people will start looking forward to Christmas and set up decorations, some of which will remain up until February, if not all year round.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Another Christmas has come and gone.  Like last Christmas, I spent this one in Singapore.  The celebration was small.  It was just my wife and I, but we had a good time.  We had ham, veggies, toasted bread, a log cake and champagne.  We have enough left overs for a week’s worth of sandwiches!  We also spent some time watching Christmas movies and laughing over (or eating) presents we’d received.

We didn’t get to spend this Christmas with either of our families, which would’ve been great, but we have each other, and it’s nice to be able to spend the holidays with someone you love.

It’s also great to get a huge box of goodies from home in the mail on Christmas Eve!

The box has 3 Musketeers, Skor, Snickers, Quaker Instant Oatmeal Fruit & Cream Variety (80 packets), 2 boxes of thin mint cookies, two stocking-stuffer mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup packs, and some Chips A’hoy.

3 Musketeers is hard to find around here.  The only place I’ve ever seen it is in the duty free store on Clark Air Base in Pampanga Province, Philippines.  They had a few packs of the mini-bars.  I’ve also never seen Skor or those thin mints over here.  Skor is chocolate covered toffee.  There is Quaker Instant Oatmeal here, but only the plain kind.  That stuff sucks.  The flavors in the box we got are ‘Peaches & Cream’, ‘Blueberries & Cream’, and ‘Strawberries & Cream’.  It has little bits of fruit in it and has a sweeter, creamier taste.  You just dump it in a bowl and add hot water.  Cheap (in the US anyway), affordable, and a perfect breakfast.  Good for a dessert too.

Some of this stuff is available in Singapore.  You can get Reese’s Peanut Butter cups in import shops but they cost quite a bit.  I doubt if those two stocking-stuffer packs cost more than 3 bucks apiece in the US.  Here it’d probably go for 6 or 7 bucks.  As for the Chips A’hoy and Snickers, I think they must use a different recipe because the ones I get in Singapore (or the Philippines) just don’t taste quite as good as the ones from the US.

So, I got a box of American goodness that should last us for months.  Oh, and I got a pack of underwear.

I hope everyone else had a Merry Christmas as well!  Next up, New Years!

Another Round of Christmas Decoration Photos From Around Singapore

Back in November, I made a post with photos of the Christmas decorations on Orchard Road for this year. Since then, quite a few have been added, but I didn’t get shots of them all.  There’s just too many!  Orchard Road really turns into a sea of lights at this time of the year and helps you to forget about the hot weather and the lack of snow.  It helps get you in the ‘Christmas spirit’.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been snapping photos with my iPhone and camera when I saw things that stood out to me.  Here are a few more decorations from around Singapore:

This giant ball that opens and closes is in Terminal 3 at Changi International Airport.
This is the outside and inside of the Christmas tree in front of Ion Orchard mall on Orchard Road.
These are photos of the Christmas tree at Bugis Junction.  I really love the white and blue combination!
There were a series of dressed up deer characters along Orchard Road (including a creepy one with no eyes).  I had to wait a while, but managed to get this great photo taken!
Oops!  Someone dropped this tree in upside down!  This is at Tampines 1.

These three Christmas trees were walking around Tampines 1 offering up great photo opportunities to shoppers!
I think this will be my last Christmas in Singapore, so I was happy to have the chance to see so many of the decorations.  Christmas isn’t just about decorations, but it really sets the mood, and I’ve never seen it done better.  Bravo Singapore!

2009 Christmas Decorations Along Orchard Road, Singapore

On Saturday night at 7:30 PM the Christmas lights along Orchard Road were officially lit.  I wasn’t there for the ceremony, as I was laid up in the house with a mild case of food poisoning, but we can’t have everything right?  I decided to tough it out and get my butt up to Orchard Road on Sunday evening at least to have a look at this year’s decorations.

Last year the decorations were awesome!  I remember how impressed I was, and how incredible everything looked.  I had never seen such a huge display of Christmas decorations.  I don’t know if anyone does it as big as Singapore does when it comes to setting up lights.  If you’re not familiar with Singapore, Orchard Road is what you would call the ‘Main Street’ of Singapore.  It’s in the heart of the city-state and is home to the biggest, poshest malls Singapore has to offer, carrying brands like Docle & Gabbana, Prada, Lous Vuitton, etc.  It’s a popular place to go, even if you’re not planning on buying anything.  You could literally spend all evening cruising the malls and never go through the same place twice, unless you have to to exit the mall again of course.

Like I said, last year’s decorations were stunning, especially to me, since I’d never seen Orchard Road in all its Christmas glory before.  This year was no less thrilling.  In fact, I think the decorations this year were far more elegant and classy looking than last year’s.  I have no clue if it’s true or not but I have a feeling that the decorations are rotated, and that there’s a stock of them somewhere, so that each year there’s something different.  Who knows?  Maybe there are no ‘repeats’ and the road is decorated with fresh stuff every year?  I have a feeling that this year the planners were really pushing for that classy, elegant look, especially considering the fact that the APEC meeting is happening here in Singapore from the 5th through the 18th (?) of November.  There will be a lot of important political figures in Singapore during those dates, and the city-state has really ‘dressed to impress’.

Before continuing on, you may want to take a quick look at this post to see some of the decorations from 2008.

The photos below aren’t in order, exactly.  I matched some of them up according to decoration type.  We exited the MRT at Dhoby Ghaut Interchange and walked all the way down to Orchard Towers before turning back and using the Orchard MRT station under Ion to go home.

And now, a sample of 2009’s decorations (click for larger image):

The tree in Tampines Mall.  I know that’s not Orchard Road, but just thought I’d throw it in there, since it looks so nice.

Like I said earlier, everything has a real classy, professional, elegant look to it.  I wonder if everything is set out yet, though.  I seem to remember there being more displays last year.  Of course, it’s only early November, so perhaps more will be added as we get closer to Christmas.  We’ll definitely be making another visit to check!  Also, the place was crowded, but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as when we went last year.  The atmosphere was somewhat subdued as well.  It didn’t feel overly cheerful.  On our next trip down there I think we’ll buy some ice cream and hot chocolate to get more into the spirit of the season. ^_^

I hope you enjoyed the photos!

Christmas Decorations Are Up on Orchard!

Update: Please read THIS article to see samples of the 2009 Christmas Decorations on Orchard.

Last year my wife and I had a great time walking around Orchard Road, looking at all of the Christmas decorations.  Singapore really goes all out when it comes to Christmas and Orchard Road becomes a sort of Winter Wonderland… minus the snow and the crisp breeze that is.  This is still the tropics, after all.  Despite that heat, the sheer number of decorations and how well they’re displayed can help you to forget for a moment that you’re sweating, and put you in the mood for wrapping gifts and drinking hot chocolate.  It’s a great time of year in Singapore!

And, based on my trip down to Orchard Road over the weekend (pictured above), the city isn’t wasting any time in getting things going this year.  We were downtown on October 31st and they were already getting the majority of of the pole and tree mounted decorations in place.  The decor looks like it’s going to be a different theme this year, which is really cool.  It would be boring if they simply set up the same stuff as last year.  In fact, I think the decorations look like they’ll be a lot better than last year’s.  I can’t wait to have a look at them!  I’m not sure if they’re being lit up after dark yet.  They certainly weren’t when we were there, though that might have been because of the storm.  I’m thinking it’s just preparations though, and they’ll get things going around the end of November.

I wanted to take some more photos but we went into Lucky Plaza to eat first and when we were done, it was like the bottom dropped out of the sky.  The thunder was sounding almost right after the lightning flashed and was so loud it was like having iron pots banged together repeatedly about half a foot from my ear.

(How to calculate your distance from a lightning strike using the sound of thunder.)

Here are some pictures of last year’s Christmas decorations: