Christmas season in New York

New Yorkers like to think they have it all during the holidays -- chestnuts roasting in a vendor's cart, yuletide carols being sung by dozens of choirs, and folks dressed up like Eskimos on the windswept avenues. In otherwords, everything to make the season bright.

New York's biggest booster, Mayor Edward I. Koch, says there are many special things about his city during the holidays. ``The crowds, the good humor, the lights that come on at dusk, the great department store windows and all the goodies inside, and the closing of Fifth Avenue to cars on the Sunday before Christmas.''

``Christmas is always special,'' says Rita Smith of Forest Hills, Queens, who came into Manhattan to buy presents at Macy's for her grandson. And The City, as all New Yorkers refer to Manhattan, is particularly nice, with the trees on street corners and the hustle-bustle of Fifth Avenue. Ms. Smith raves about the patchwork quilts in the window display at Steuben Glass.

Jacky Rouette, owner of the restaurants Prunelle and La Petite Marmite, is happy that ``every New Yorker is in New York, and not on vacation.''

Out-of-towners pour into the city during the holiday. Kathy and Charlie Watson have been visiting from Spokane, Wash., on their way to Norfolk, Va., to visit family. They are plainly having a good time.

``We've been shopping and eating, shopping and eating,'' says Mrs. Watson with delight.

They watched the lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center (``We see it on television each year, and we wanted to see it for real,'' she says), and went to the musical ``Cats.'' ``We were in the fifth row,'' says Mrs. Watson, who is a full-time mother to two-year-old Emily, who stayed in Spokane. ``We could see their noses move!''

Because of New York's diverse population, the holidays contain something for almost everyone. The Jewish Museum has an exhibition titled ``Fantasy and Form in the Hanukkah Lamp,'' which includes beautiful works in silver, brass, pewter, and glass from around the world.

An origami holiday tree is on display at the American Museum of Natural History, puppet shows are being held at the Staten Island Children's Museum at Snug Harbor, and a winter solstice celebration will be held Dec. 21 at Wave Hill in the Bronx. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan, music plays at the Christmas tree decorated with Baroque angels and surrounded by a Baroque cr`eche display.

There are constant reminders of the less fortunate in New York. The Salvation Army and the Volunteers of America have bellringers near all the shopping and sightseeing hot spots. And on an ``F'' train to Queens Wednesday, two women dressed as ``Santa's helpers'' asked for donations for an organization that helps the needy.

The music of Christmas is everywhere -- from the Waverly Consort's performance of the Christmas story, to the Vienna Boys Choir, singing carols.

And the festivities won't end on Christmas Day. The Hispanic community celebrates Three Kings Day on Jan. 6, the day the three kings of Biblical fame came to Bethlehem and presented gifts to the baby Jesus. A parade for children begins at the El Museo del Barrio with children dressed as the kings, shepherds, angels, or the Holy family.

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