Bridget Gleeson writer + illustrator

Classic / contemporary: Christmas in the Big Apple

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As New Yorkers left the city in mass exodus, we rolled into Penn Station just in time for the holidays.

Ah, Christmas in New York. Sounds romantic. But my family spent the holiday there due to practical reasons – tight work schedules, easy Amtrak access in and out of the city, the fact that everyone refuses to drive in freezing rain – you get the picture. Our quickie Christmas was the stuff of lasting memories, though. My message to you is that if you want to spend your holidays in New York, you need to mix the classic with the contemporary.

You’ve got to pick one from column A, as they say, and one from column B.

Real evergreens (left) are lovely. They’re also a fire hazard. So we had a cool corrugated cardboard tree (right) made by my sister.


christmas trees cardboard tree

Ice-skating in Central Park, obviously, is a classic (left.)

Ping pong at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar (right) is also a sport we can all play, but not well enough to be competitive about it.


ping pong

Horse and carriage ride (left.) Supposedly we did that ‘for the baby.’

But all the cash we spent on gourmet donuts, espresso, vintage eyewear and Anthropologie accessories at Chelsea Market (right)? That can not be blamed on a child.

horsedrawn carriage

chelsea market

Christmas Eve cocktails at the Campbell Apartment at Grand Central Station. The place felt so glamorous that night. (A sprig of evergreen in my drink? Festive!)

campbell apartment three

campbell apartment two


But Christmas Day lunch? Chinese hot pot in Chinatown. That’s a two-hour ‘all you can eat’ window, and we stayed for the full two hours.

hot potchinatown

During this unconventional holiday meal, we laughed a lot while recounting our first collective hot pot experience in Beijing back in 2006, in which all of us, stupidly, thought the boiling hot water was some kind of soup, and during which I ate a piece of frozen raw pork. I’m still living that one down.