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Everyone knows that Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree has a trademark on the holiday season, but this week we’re ferreting out spruces and firs that might be even better.
You don’t have to go too far outside New York City to see our first contender. In fact, it’s right on Long Island. The folks at the RexCorp Plaza in Uniondale have been setting up a pretty big tree for years, and their 2008 offering is 80 feet tall and offers up 50,000 lights to celebrate the season--and this year it’s their first time using LEDs.
Each year, the “tree officials” look for a specimen that was going to be cut down anyway. The 2008 tree was starting to get a little too close to someone’s house before it was removed and transported to its holiday hangout. It traveled almost the entire length of New York from it’s home in Caanan, right on the state’s border with Canada.
Things became official this weekend with a lighting ceremony, which brought Ashanti and Push Play into town to help out. Unfortunately, after the holiday season is over, it’s going to spend its life as bag of mulch at your local home improvement store. So see it soon!
When we plan a Christmas getaway, Seoul isn't the first destination that springs to mind, but the South Korean tourism peeps are telling us it should be.
About 15 percent of Koreans are Christian--and with 60 percent saying they don't belong to any religion at all, that's a fair chunk of believers--so the whole Christmas thing doesn't get ignored like it would in neighboring Asian countries.
On the contrary: There's plenty of Christmas shopping to be done at the big Seoul malls like Lotte World, you can skate on the outdoor ice rink that opens December 12 and at night you can admire the "Lucevista" street lights through the city center.
But the weirdest bit is Piano Street. In true Korean techno-geek style they're installing a road-sized piano keyboard and while you stroll around admiring the Christmas lights, your feet will be playing a tune--just like in "Big!"
[Photo: wish I had an SLR]
The holiday celebration gets underway tomorrow at the Universal Orlando Resort. Mannheim Steamroller comes to Universal Studios with performances at 6 pm and 8 pm, and surprisingly, the concerts are included with your daily admission. Besides the Christmas decorations and music that you’ll find throughout the parks, there are some special events to catch, too:
Each night through December, the world’s largest Lego Christmas tree will light up the park. The 30-foot tree is assembled from almost 250,000 Duplo blocks, and each evening they pick a park guest to do the lighting honors, so keep your eyes open for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The party at Legoland really gets bumping towards the end of the month. Starting on December 20, the park starts its annual Holiday Block Party--get it, block party?--with lights, music and nightly fireworks. And of course, there will be plenty of Lego toys to buy for under the probably-not-made-of-bricks tree at your place.
For the second year in a row, Mexico City is home to the world's biggest ice rink. Set in the heart of town--in the Zócalo--the ice spans more than 300,000 square feet, making it about 20 times bigger than an NHL hockey rink.
The five-hour opening ceremony Saturday included Mexican pop stars, pro skaters inaugurating the ice and the lighting of Christmas decorations--including a 163-foot tree--in the square. There were even some mountains of snow for kids to enjoy.
While it's not exactly sweltering in Mexico City right now, the weather is far from frightful: Highs above 70 are forecast for this weekend. The rink will be open until January 10, and admission is free.
[Photo of the 2007 fun: El Fotopakismo]
It's not just a ringtone, you know: George Frideric Handel's "Messiah" oratorio, featuring the oft-played "Hallelujah" chorus, is traditionally performed this time of year--even though it debuted during Lent in 1742. Want to hear the passage that allegedly caused King George II to rise from his throne?
The Old Messiah: Trinity Church on Wall Street:
The first performance of "Messiah" was a benefit for inmates of debtors' prisons, but this Episcopalian parish, founded in 1697 at what then was the northern edge of New York, is one of the richest in the US because of its land holdings in Manhattan. Hear the Christmas section of "Messiah" in the site Nicolas Cage found an incredible cache of precious items in "National Treasure." Dec. 14 at 3 pm, Dec. 16 at 7:30 pm; 74 Trinity Pl. (Tickets here)
The Early Messiah: Brooklyn Contemporary Chorus:
Leaving New York for the holidays, or just in a hurry? Handel himself was in a hurry to write and conduct the "Messiah" because he was deeply in debt at the time and wouldn't get paid at all till it was finished. Get your sacred obligations out of the way, in Brooklyn no less, with the voices of your friends and neighbors (no auditions required!) Dec. 7 at 4 pm; Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, 85 S. Oxford St., Brooklyn. (Tickets at the door)
The Fancypants Messiah: Carnegie Hall:
Handel reportedly never left his house in the three weeks it took him to compose the "Messiah." No way are we going to recommend that kind of Christmas! Do it up in the classic style with soprano Deborah Vogt and a program that includes other festive faves like "O Holy Night" and "Santa Baby." (They're also playing host to the McGarrigle Christmas Hour, featuring Rufus Wainwright and family, this season.) Dec. 16 at 8 pm; 57th St. and 7th Ave. (Tickets here)
The DIY Messiah: The National Chorale Handel Messiah Sing-In:
So you think you can sing? There are several "Messiah"s going on at Lincoln Center this season, but only one of them encourages the entire audience to sing along--and brings 17 (!) conductors for that purpose. It's strictly BYO Handel, though, so stop by Patelson's Music House (160 W. 56th St.) beforehand to pick up your score. Dec. 16 at 8 pm; Avery Fisher Hall, 63rd St. and Columbus Ave. (Tickets here)
[Photo of a 2006 "Messiah" performance at Carnegie Hall: ggvic]
It’s doubtful that marine mammals come to mind when you think of Christmas. But SeaWorld is trying to change that, and the park hopes to get some of your holiday cash with some special events this month in San Diego.
Although winter is in full swing across much of the country, theme parks located in the more chilly locations still have a lot to offer for the holidays. Hersheypark has reopened its doors to visitors to help you celebrate the season.
Taking a page out of the Improv Everywhere playbook--and wanting to represent the city of brotherly love not the city that boos people--local radio personalities, Eagles cheerleaders and the 76ers dance team took to Philadelphia International Airport this morning to welcome passengers to town.
Given that today's one of the busiest travel days of the year, the Philly tourism board also saw the event as an opportunity to hype their "More Holiday Fun" promo, which casts the city as the perfect place for holiday shopping.
The tourism folks have put together a Google Map mashup of Philly boutiques with unique gifts for less than $25 and a mini-site that highlights budget-friendly things to do in the city in the run up to Christmas. Sadly, the holiday promotions don't include a welcoming committee of cheerleaders for everyone who visits between now and New Year's.
[Photos: J. Holder for GPTMC]
One of the most beloved (or at least one of the most rerun) Christmas movies of all time is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year, and you can be a part of it. “A Christmas Story”, the tale of poor Ralphie, who wants a BB gun for Christmas but can't have it lest he "shoot his eye out," is set in Indiana but was actually filmed in Cleveland. The house in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood that served as the movie’s primary filming location was restored and opened to the public for tours in 2006.
Though the house is open year round, this weekend is the big 25th Anniversary Celebration and Convention. Special events include appearances by actors from the movie, the premieres of two documentaries about the film, rides in the original fire truck used in the movie and the unveiling of newly-acquired costumes for the A Christmas Story House Museum.
The Renaissance Cleveland Hotel is the official hotel for the convention, and several of the weekend’s events, including a meet-and-greet with the actors, will be hosted by the hotel. They will also be providing transportation to the A Christmas Story House for all hotel guests.
When we think of Japan, Christmas is probably one of the last things to come to mind. Still, it makes sense that a country that loves itself some kitsch would fully embrace what has become the world’s tackiest and most commercial holiday (arguments for Valentine’s Day, Halloween and Diwali will all be accepted in the comments).
So we guess it makes sense that the Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise Aquarium in Tokyo has started featuring underwater shows with dolphins and scuba divers dressed as Santa Claus. Looks like our childhood fantasy is true: Santa really can be everywhere at the same time.
But listen, even if the aquarium’s dolphin show is a bit hokey, it’s still a site worth visiting during a trip through Japan. Since dollars, euros and even pounds are all virtually worthless against the yen these days, the best part of the park (after the swimming Santa, of course) is that everything at the aquarium and its adjacent Pleasure Land is a la carte. Once inside this man-made island, you can pay-as-you go to ride on the roller coaster, see the swimming mammals or swing over the sea on a giant pendulum. Japan: Cornering the Bizarre Travel market.
[Photo: Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise Aquarium]
If you need any further evidence of Christmas Creep, here it is: The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree arrived in Midtown this morning, almost two full weeks before Thanksgiving. Say what you will about the commercialization of Jesus' B-day, but the 8-ton, 72-foot-tall, 80-year-old Norway spruce is pretty impressive.
Crews will now string the tree with five miles of wire and 30,000 solar-powered LEDs in advance of the December 3 lighting ceremony, which promises stars like Beyonce, Tony Bennett and the Jonas Brothers. The spruce will be topped by the massive Swarovski star unveiled by Fergie earlier this week.
[Photo of last year's tree: pbb]