It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go;
Take a look in the five-and-ten, glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.
—from “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”
by Meredith Willson (1902–1984, American songwriter)
In the Big Apple it is not just poinsettias, snow, and Christmas carols that help the city look a lot like Christmas. The biggest boost to our seasonal spirits are the dazzling Christmas window displays at the major department stores. The retailers’ aim is to entice people to buy, while others are only in a browsing mood. Since the late 1800s, when department stores sprung up in cities across the U.S., windows became crucial for retailers trying to out-do one another. At this time of year we are delighted with the competition.
Some stores merge decorative displays with merchandise; but others wholly give over the window space to fanciful and imaginative creations. Department stores appear to spare no expense on their end-of-the-year displays to entice customers. New York is expected to attract 60 million visitors in 2016; five million of them are anticipated between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day alone.
Tiffany & Co., Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Barneys, and Macy’s are known for lavish window dressings during the Christmas season. Here are photos of these seven retailers’ Christmas window extravaganzas.
Barneys chose the theme “Love, Peace and Joy.” Partnering with well-known artists from different backgrounds to produce displays that encourage the spirit of paying it forward. The five artists are visual and performance artist Nick Cave, contemporary artist Rob Pruitt, artist collective Studio Job, mixed media artist Ebony G. Patterson and Matt Stone of Comedy Central’s South.
Bergdorf Goodman brings us ‘Destination Extraordinary,’ a collection of five windows. Each has a subtitle, such as ‘The Book Club,’ ‘The Scenic Route,’ ‘The Winter Garden,’ ‘The Hitch Hiker,’ and ‘Bird’s Eye View.’ The inspiration for the larger-than-life scenes of flora, fauna, and sequined primates came from classic dioramas at natural history museums, the paintings of Henri Rousseau and 12th-century Chinese watercolor mountainscapes. Specially commissioned artisans created hand-painted backdrops, highly embellished objects, and unique set pieces over a nine-months period.
Bloomingdale’s “Light Up a Young Mind” Christmas display is philanthropic in nature. Visual artists were commissioned to create eight chandeliers exclusively for Bloomingdale’s. This is grand street theater. All eight are featured in its main windows; the light fixtures will be auctioned off to benefit the Child Mind Institute, a charity that the store has worked with in the past. One-hundred percent of the auction price will benefit the charity.
The ‘Enchanted Forest’ is the 79th annual Christmas window show at Lord & Taylor. Its Fifth Avenue flagship store windows are filled with 34 hand-sculpted forest animals frolicking in a festive winter wonderland; LED screens enhance the scenes. Slumbering foxes, dancing raccoons, ice-skating bunnies, snowshoe-clad geese, a giant brown bear, and more contribute to the magic.
Technology has always played a role the major department store Christmas window displays. Without the development of plate glass, big, showy department store would not be at all possible. Macy’s uses contemporary gadgetry for its six ‘Believe in Magic’ windows along Broadway at Herald Square. Each window has its own sub-theme such as, “Together,” featuring a family tree made of 1,500 hand-made crystals, and “Celebrate,” showing off a Macy’s Parade 90th Anniversary pinball machine.
Saks Fifth Avenue turned to the traditional tale of ‘The Nutcracker,’ even featuring a ballet performance, when its Christmas windows “Land of 1,000 Delights” were unveiled. The story is told in a most non-traditional way however. Located directly across from Rockefeller Center, Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship store uses a play on words, calling its six centerpiece windows “The Nutcracker Sweet.” Story characters Clara, the Mouse King, the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Cavalier among others, romp in a candy-filled wonderland.
Tiffany & Co., known for elegance and grace, employs those qualities at Christmastime too. Its ‘Make the World Sparkle’ windows depict a Tiffany New York Christmas, capturing the seasonal sights of the city, and including its dazzling jewelry. Featuring settings from around the Big Apple—a vignette of Rockefeller Center and its massive Christmas tree, the Manhattan skyline as viewed from New Jersey, a picnic in Central Park with jewel-filled foods—Tiffany & Co. incorporates its sparkling merchandise in its classy fashion.
Read our previous articles about Christmas in New York.
Knitting Christmas Sweetness
NYC’s Christmas Windows, 2015
An Older Christmas Tree Tradition
and A Reindeer Yarn
Our Christmas Windows Tour helps you navigate the wonders of New York City’s department store windows efficiently and wondrously. Marvel at the elaborate displays, and discover the history behind these stores. Take the Tour; Know More!
ALL PHOTOS AND TEXT, EXCEPT CREDITED QUOTES, © THE AUTHOR 2016