Monday, November 10, 2008

Christmastime in the City

When I was a kid, every year my family would travel to the city just before Christmas to see the lights, to ooh and aah over Santa's Workshop in Carson's windows, to discover what story the Marshall Field's windows held.

At Marshall Field's, we always had to start at the beginning of the "story," no matter if it was a story that we'd heard (or seen) many times before, like The Nutcracker. My younger sisters and I would squeeze through the throngs of people, attempting to get to the front to admire Clara twirl, or the MouseKing dance.

Now, years later, Carson's is gone. And Marshall Field's is now a Macy's. I've grown up, and I've moved to the city. Macy's on State Street is now part of my "neighborhood," and I pass it every day on my way to work with little thought about how some of my favorite Christmastime memories were on those very sidewalks. Granted, it didn't help that for the past few weeks the Macy's windows have been covered, with these words impressed onto the glass: "Pardon our appearance. A little magic is in store."

But, today, as I passed by the store, on the corner of Randolph and State, Christmas music filled the air, emanating from the new window displays, full of red clothed mannequins and toys that, of course, Macy's is selling. I inwardly groaned. I know there is still well over a month until Christmas, that the Nutcracker, or some other story, may eventually fill the windows - but it's not the same, and not just because it's no longer Marshall Field's.

I continued on, scurrying to work, until I got to Daly Plaza, where I typically cut through to save myself just a few steps. But, over the weekend, the plaza had been shut off--and a Christmas-time transformation has begun. White tents have been raised. Small stores, made out of wood, have been built. And, my favorite part of all, the large Christmas tree is being assembled. As a kid visiting this Christkindlmarket, and even just last year, I knew that there was no way this enormous tree was one single tree, but I had no clue how it came to be--until today.

They started with one very tall pole, surrounded by a few steel rings that narrow in size the higher up the tree they go. The workers attach the first tree to the top of the pole using a crane. Now, they are working their way down, filling the tree in from the middle and then expanding it outward. They haven't gotten far yet, but it's only to be expected that a 75 foot tree (or thereabouts) would take a while to create. But in a few days, the tree will be put together and strung with lights. The stores will be filled with German-American wares and food--and no matter what happens in the windows of Macy's, at least I know there'll still be plenty of Christmas-time magic in the city air.

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