Happy Holidays from New York: 12 Ways to Get Into the Holiday Spirit

Winter finally seems to have arrived on the east coast, and the holiday season is just around the corner. New York’s art scene has no shortage of events and installations this December; here are 12 things for arts and museum-lovers to get into the holiday spirit!

1. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche (through January 6th) 

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The Met’s Christmas Tree. Source: the author.

Every year, the Met puts up a Christmas tree in the Medieval Sculpture Hall, in front of the soaring Spanish choir screen. The tree is adorned with colorful 18th-century cherubs and angels, and at the foot of the tree is an elaborate Nativity scene, inspired by traditional Neapolitan Christmas displays. All of the figures are objects in the collection, and daily tree-lighting events are accompanied by Baroque music.

2. Morgan Museum and Library, Charles Dickens’ manuscript of A Christmas Carol (through January 8th)

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A Christmas Carol, autograph title page (1843). Source: The Morgan Library & Museum.

The Morgan Museum & Library, renowned for its collection of rare books and manuscripts, displays Charles Dickens’ original manuscript of A Christmas Carol, which the author wrote in only six weeks in 1843.

3. Museum of the City of New York, Santa and the City

This show at the Museum of the City of New York focuses on the special relationship between Santa and New York, and the 19th-century artists who created some of the enduring images of Old St. Nick.

4. Met Cloisters, MetLiveArts (ticketed, multiple dates)

Uptown from the main Fifth Avenue building, the Cloisters are a welcome respite from the bustle of Manhattan. This December, the Cloisters is hosting a series of performances in the 12th-century Spanish chapel of traditional music and a Christmas play  from the Middle Ages.

5. Whitney Museum, Winter Garden (through February 5th)

Contemporary artist Virginia Overton expands on her installation for the Whitney from last summer. I would recommend seeing this one before it snows, but you’ll have a great view of the city from the fifth-floor terrace.

6. The Jewish Museum, Masterpieces & Curiosities: Memphis Does Hanukkah (through February 12th)

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Peter Shire, Menorah #7 (1986). Source: The Jewish Museum.

This exhibition at the Jewish Museum is devoted to the work of contemporary artist Peter Shire, specifically his Menorah #7 (1986) from the museum’s collection. The exhibition explores the different influences on Shire and his work: his fascination with Hanukkah lamps, “relationships and dissonances between art and design, tradition and innovation, ceremony and interpretation.”

7. Brooklyn Museum, Latke Festival (December 19th, ticketed)

Hosted by the Brooklyn Museum, the Latke Festival celebrates “the best latkes and creative interpretations of a potato pancake in New York City.” Judges will decide on the best latke in NYC, and proceeds from ticket sales go to a non-profit. (See event here.)

8. World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorahs (December 24th-January 1st)

Okay, so this one is not in a museum. Manhattan and Brooklyn compete for the world’s largest Hanukkah menorah, with lighting ceremonies to kick off the Festival of Lights. The Manhattan menorah is over 32 ft high, and located near the Plaza Hotel, while Brooklyn’s is in the Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park.

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Manhattan’s Hanukkah Menorah. Via Pinterest.

9. American Museum of Natural History, Kwanzaa 2016: Songs for the Soul (December 30th)

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Kwanzaa celebration 2015. Source: AMNH/R. Mickens, Time Out.

The American Museum of Natural History often holds one of the largest Kwanzaa celebrations in NYC, an event with music, performances, and a Kwanzaa marketplace of crafts and gifts organized by Harlem Arts Alliance. Ruben Studdard of American Idol fame is performing. Free with museum admission. (See event here.) 

10. American Museum of Natural History, Origami Holiday Tree (ongoing)

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2016 Origami Holiday Tree. Source: AMNH.

Every year, AMNH also decorates a tree with hundreds of hand-folded origami ornaments inspired by the museum’s collection and exhibitions. If you visit the museum this season, volunteers are on hand to help visitors fold their own ornaments to add to the tree. This year the theme is “Dinosaurs Among Us.” Who doesn’t want to see a tree decorated with dinosaurs?

11. El Museo del Barrio, Three Kings Day Parade (January 6th)

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Towering figures of the Three Kings from the parade. Source: El Museo del Barrio.

January 6, 2017 is the 40th anniversary of El Museo del Barrio’s Three Kings Day Parade, and admission to the museum is free! The parade runs from 106th Street and Lexington Avenue and to 115th Street and Park Avenue, and features music, dancing, and traditional Puerto Rican food. (To read about last year’s parade, see here.) 

12. Come for the holidays, stay for the art. 

Regardless of the season, there are plenty of things to see in New York’s museums. The New York Times reminds us that many museums offer extended hours or special openings during the holiday season, and recommends just what to see for the art experience you’re looking for.

Happy Holidays!

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