Bloomingdale's. The windows of the world.

Bloomingdale's is an upscale chain of department stores owned by American multinational corporation Macy's, Inc. 
Bloomingdale's started in 1861  and in 1930 moved to its' current location of Lexington Avenue. In 1949 Bloomingdale's joined Federated Department Stores, now Macy's, Inc.

Bloomingdale’s Christmas Windows 2013 this year are gift themed—"All Wrapped Up In Bloomingdale’s." 

Each of the flagship's Lexington Avenue windows have holiday shopping scenes from different cities   and countries around the world, including New York, Paris(France), Venice (Italy),   London(Great Britain) and China.  Every country   has its iconic symbols: Santa travel on gondola in Italy, there is an Eiffel tower in Paris and yellow taxi in Big Apple.

"This holiday we invite you to unwrap the world of peace, joy and cheer- with festive surprises from Britain, China, France, Italy, New York City and beyond. Take a journey with us around the world without even leaving Lexington Avenue, and remember that certain tings like love and style are universal. Bon voyage and happy gifting!" is written on  one of the windows.


Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

My favorite   Wiki says that  in  the United States the holiday season "is generally considered to begin with the day after Thanksgiving and end after New Year's Day".  

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is the official kick-off of the holiday season.

In 1924, the parade,  originally known as the Macy's Christmas Parade and later the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade  was staged by the Macy's department Store. 
 In the 1920s, many of Macy's department store employees were first-generation immigrants from Europe. They wanted  to celebrate the parade of Thanksgiving in New York with the type of festival their parents had loved.  
The employees marched six miles, from Harlem to Herald's Square, dressed as clowns, knights and cowboys.  Marching bands and animals from the Central Park Zoo accompanied the parade's first floats: The Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe, Miss Muffet and Red Riding Hood.  Little Red Riding Hood, also known as Red Cap  is a French and later European fairy tale about a young girl and a Big Bad Wolf. "There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" and "Miss Muffet"  are  popular English language nursery rhymes:

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.

She had so many children, she didn't know what to do;
She gave them some broth without any bread;
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her

And frightened Miss Muffet away

Felix the cat - the first balloon on parade
In 1927 Macy's asks theatrical designer and creator of Macy's Christmas windows, Tony Sarg, to design giant balloons which would become the signature pieces of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.    Felix the Cat, the funny animal cartoon character created in the silent film era, became the first official parade balloon.

In 1928, helium was used to fill the balloons and hold them in the air. Felix was filled with helium and without a plan to deflate the massive balloon, NYC parade organizers simply let Felix fly off into the sky.  

From 1928-1933, the giant balloons were released at the end of the Parade and after the first year of releasing them, the balloons featured a return address label and prizes for the return of the balloons - those who found one could return it to Macy's for a $100 reward. In  1932 parade a  pilot attempted to capture a balloon and nearly crashed.

 Floats were pulled by horses until 1939, when NBC broadcast the parade for the first time. 

The parade was suspended between 1942-1944 when the balloons were recycled into 650 lbs. of rubber and donated to the war effort.
The parade returned in 1945 and was shown on television for the first time. Prior to television, the country listened to the parade on radio.
In 1958 with a helium shortage, the balloons were inflated with air and hoisted up with cranes for the Parade. Now Macy's is the world's second largest consumer of helium. The United States government is the first one.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2012 was attended by more than 3 million people and watched by 50 million on TV. Shredded police documents containing Social Security numbers, names of detectives and even a mention of Mitt Romney’s Long Island motorcade rained down on   as part of the confetti used for the Macy’s extravaganza.

Over the past few decades, Macy's Balloon Inflation has become a pretty huge event itself. On Wednesday, Nov. 27, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., the balloons are prepped and inflated on the streets around the American Museum of Natural History, at Columbus Avenue and West 77th Street. The entrance to the inflation viewing is on 79th Street, and from here you can walk south along Columbus Avenue, east on 77th Street, and then north on Central Park West. 
Inflation night gets packed, particularly later in the evening, after 6 p.m. - arrive earlier!

There is still one parade tradition that’s relatively crowd-free: the deflation, which takes place right after the parade ends on Nov. 28, usually on and around the side streets near Herald Square.

The annual parade will start from  77th Street and Central Park West at 9 a.m., Thursday 28 November 2013. The route will continue down Central Park West to Columbus Circle before turning onto Central Park South and 6th Avenue.

Cartier building, Holiday decoration 2013

What could be more New York than the Cartier Building on the corner of 5th Avenue and 52nd Street wrapped in its iconic big red bow!  Half way up the building, two pieces of red "ribbon" wrapping the entire building meet at a 14 ft wide LED bow.
The  lighting was  designed and specified  by the London-based Metropolis Group of Companies, and manufactured in its facility in Wales, UK. 

The  Cartier company was founded in Paris, France in 1847. The son of the founder  established the New York City branch in 1909 and  moved  in 1917 to 653 Fifth Avenue in 1917. Cartier acquired the mansion from previous owner  in exchange for $100 in cash and a double-stranded natural pearl necklace valued at the time at $1 million.

The flagship store of the upscale jeweler, Cartier, has been decorated for the holidays with an elegant red bow and ribbons since 1979.  Several years ago Cartier's best-known international trademark, the fabulous  panther  was added. 

I pass by this corner of 52 street and 5th avenue every time I go to my office. I have  a habit of having a small camera in my purse.  As a result I have a set of pictures of Cartier building.

2005 2009
2010 2011
2013 2013
2013 2013


Thanksgiving falls on an interesting day this year.  November 28th is the second day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving.  So now some people are calling it   Thanksgivukkah! Thanksgiving + Hanukkah.  Last time  it occurred in 1888 and won’t happen again for at least another 79,000 years!  

 The phrase was coined by a Dana Gitell, a social media marketer from Boston area. Last fall she launched a Thanksgivukkah Facebook (FB) page and Twitter (TWTR) account for the mash-up holiday.

Manischewitz, the leading producer of kosher food items in the U.S., has started its own holiday website. (one “k,” not two).

9-year-old Asher Weintraub  created a new  object to mark  extremely rare overlap of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. Menorah + turkey = Menurkey.
His dad  Anthony Weintraub, filmmaker and content creator from New York  used to fund the project. 
Weintraub used a web-based modeling program called Tinkercad to design the menorah, and some friends at MakerBot Studios used a 3-D printer to create a prototype. A ceramic artist made final prototypes in clay, with both the Gregorian and Hebrew years appearing on the Menurkey’s base. 

The shop in New York Jewish museum is  exclusive NYC Retailer of Hanukkah-Thanksgiving  Menurkey.  At the The Jewish Museum’s annual Hanukkah Family Day on Sunday, November 24, Asher Weintraub will be on site to sign his creation at 11:30am.

Due to overwhelming demand, the Menurkey is now not available for delivery in time for Hanukkah/Thanksgiving.  In-store Pick-ups are also no longer available before the holiday. 

Web sites  have started selling things like Thanksgivukkah wrapping paper, greeting cards and bags that say "gobble tov."  
In New York City, Macy's will include a giant dreidel in its Thanksgiving Day Parade to honor the occasion. 

This extraordinary convergence of holidays reminds us that both the Maccabees and the Pilgrims valued freedom above all.

Holiday season in New York

The holiday season is here!  It's my favorite time of year in New York City.  The whole city buzzes with holiday spirit as everyone is ready for the festivities.
Stores go above and beyond to decorate their windows - each set of windows has a different theme and music to go along.  The city is adorned with beautiful lights and decorations,  it makes you feel like you're on a movie set when you walk around. There are always amazing things happening in New York City during the holidays. There's so much to see and do in New York City - it is difficult to choose.  Do not worry - I will help.   I created a tag 'Holiday season 2013'  for you and plan to publish a set of posts about this wonderful time in New York.

 Rockefeller center, the view from 5th Avenue.  On the first picture Christmas tree is hidden behind the huge yellow poster.

Trees with the lights near Rockefeller center

Harry Winston Jewelry shop on 5th Avenue. I wrote about the King of Diamonds in one of my posts.

Cleopatra's Needle, 3500-year-old obelisk in Central Park, Part 2

Cleopatra Needle, New York
Cleopatra Needle, Part 1 can be found here.

Cleopatra's Needle is the popular name for each of three ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London, Paris, and New York City. Cleopatra’s Needle in New York is the oldest man-made object in Central Park.  The obelisk is more than 3000 years old and  was commissioned by Pharaoh Thutmosis III around 1450 BC in celebration of the 30th year of his reign. 

In the 18th century during the Enlightenment, the obelisk began to symbolize eternity  and it became a popular form of commemoration for victories and heroes by the Europeans. 

Cleopatra Needle, London

New York's Obelisk, the second of Cleopatra's Needles, was the third obelisk to leave Egypt in the 1800s. The first one, the twin of  New York obelisk,  was presented to Britain by Egypt's leader Muhammad  Ali in 1819. 

The UK obelisk waited in Alexandria until it was shipped over in 1877. En route to England, a storm break out and six crewmen were killed attempting to rescue the sinking obelisk.  Cleopatra’s Needle was erected on the Victoria Embankment of the River Thames.  Buried beneath is a time capsule with an odd assortment of Victoriana – tobacco pipes,   children's toys. a razor, a portrait of Queen Victoria, photographs of English women and a map of London.
Cleopatra Needle, Paris

Muhammad Ali,pasha of Egypt after 1805, presented France with its Luxor obelisk in 1826. The obelisk  was moved to France in 1833. King Louis Philippe re-erected it in the Place de la Concorde in the center of Paris,  where the guillotine had sat. It was meant to serve as a monument to memorialize King Louis XV and those who lost their lives during the French Revolution.  The original cap of the obelisk is missed ( believed  to be stolen in the 6th century BC). In 1998 the government of France added a gold-leafed pyramid cap to the top of the obelisk.

In 1869, to commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal, the Khedive of Egypt, Ismail Pasha, gave the United States the twin of the London Cleopatra's Needle. 

It was a difficult task to transfer 71-foot, 244- ton granite monument from Egypt to New York.  The project was funded  by   William H. Vanderbilt, at the cost of $102,576.

Library of Congress Photo of Obelisk

On July 20, 1880, the obelisk arrived and the ship anchored off Staten Island. The obelisk was floated up the Hudson River to 96th Street--the only spot in the riverbank that wasn't too high for landing. The special track was built to transport the obelisk on land to Central Park. 

It took thirty-two horses hitched in sixteen pairs to pull the obelisk to the park. It was erected in an official ceremony on January 22, 1881.

There a time capsule buried beneath the Obelisk in New York,as it was done in London. 

 It includes an 1870 U.S. census, the Bible, Webster’s Dictionary, the complete works of Shakespeare, a guide to Egypt,  facsimile of the Declaration of Independence and Masonic emblems.
Replacement claw on the base of  theobelisk

When the Romans transported the obelisk to Alexandria, the base was damaged and four crabs were added for support. Only two of these original crabs   remain- you can see them   in the Metropolitan Museum Of Art.  One of the claws has an inscription in Latin on the inside and one in Greek on the outside.  Four replacement claws were cast at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  

Claw in  New York Met  Museum

In 1989, the Central Park Conservancy restored the Obelisk’s terrace and landscape with new illumination, benches and paving.  The landscape is particularly beautiful in spring when the monument is surrounded by flowering magnolias and crab apple trees.

Although its hieroglyphs  on the surface of the obelisk survived three thousand years’ exposure to the Egyptian air, they have virtually disappeared after 130 years in New York. 

 During a visit to New York City in July of 2011, the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass visited the obelisk and noted some damage. New York Times wrote, that the minister   threatened to “take the necessary steps to bring this precious artifact home.”

But Egypt is not safe even for the art and historical objects.  Egypt’s famous Malawi National Museum has been ransacked, looted and smashed up by vandals  in August 2013.
As I can find there are plans to  clean and restore the historic monument.
The exhibition  'Cleopatra's Needle' in Metropolitan Museum from (December 3, 2013–June 8, 2014)  will celebrate the Central Park Conservancy's upcoming conservation on the obelisk.

Cleopatra's Needle, 3500-year-old obelisk in Central Park. Part 1

Cleopatra Needle in New York
New York Obelisk
Here is the question to you, my dear readers: how old is the oldest monument in New York? Three hundred years, five hundred years?   The correct answer is: the oldest monument is more than 3000 ( yes- three thousand ) years old.  
It is Egyptian obelisk, “Cleopatra's Needle “   and it is located in the Central Park just behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art.   
This monument was made during the reign of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Thutmose III, who ruled Egypt between 1479 BC and 1425 BC, more than 3400 years ago.
All four rectangular sides of obelisk are covered with hieroglyphic inscriptions, added about 200 years later by Ramses II,the most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire, to commemorate his military victories.
The obelisk is one of the West’s oldest monumental art forms, with some of the most continuity.

The obelisk is certainly a very early invention of the Egyptians. The word "obelisk"  derived from the  Greek word  "obelos"  - a spit.  

Obelisks in Egypt were first built around the time the sun cult of Ra became central in Heliopolis ( "house of the sun")  around the time when they were building the pyramids at Giza. Obelisks  were often raised in pairs before temples’ entrances to catch the rays of the rising and setting sun.
Obelisk in Rome

Foreign fascination with Egypt is as old as Egypt itself.  After the Romans conquered Egypt in 30 B.C., they brought obelisks home as trophies of a conquered land and today. More Egyptian obelisks stand in Rome, 13  total, than in all of Egypt.

Egyptomania gained wide popularity thanks to Napoleon's campaign in Egypt. In the early 19th century, obelisks became symbolic of international diplomacy and trade relations with Egypt.
There are three genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks in the world that have the same name.  All three were –re-erected in three different countries. The London and New York ones are a pair, while the Paris obelisk comes from a different original site, Luxor, where its twin remains. London and New York monuments are twins:  both are made of red granite from the quarries of Aswan, stand about 68 feet ( 21 meters ) high and weigh about 224 tons and are inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs.  The tallest Egypt obelisk is the Thutmose III obelisk in Rome–105 feet.

London and New York obelisks  had  been erected in Heliopolis, later moved to Alexandria by  the Romans during the reign of Caesar Augustus  and set up in the Caesarium  — a temple built by Cleopatra (hence the name Cleopatra's Needle) in honor of her dead lover Mark Antony.
Queen Cleopatra VII was the last pharaoh of Egypt.  She ruled ancient Egypt   for almost three decades. Her romantic liaisons with the Roman leaders Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, her supposed exotic beauty and powers of seduction and the secrets of her death made her famous.  Her lover Mark Antony heard a rumor that Cleopatra had committed suicide. He fell on his sword, and died just as news arrived that the rumor had been false.

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in movie (1963)

 According to Plutarch, a Greek historian, Cleopatra killed herself with the poison of a snake known as the asp, a symbol of divine royalty.  Cleopatra's tragic life inspired a number of books, movies and plays, including Antony and Cleopatra by Shakespeare and British-American-Swiss epic drama film "Cleopatra", one of the most expensive films ever made.
Fifteen years after Cleopatra  had committed suicide,  Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire and the First Emperor,  finished and redecorated Caesarium , moved  two  obelisks   to Alexandria and set them up in front of the temple. With the adoption of Christianity in 360 the temple became the Cathedral of Alexandria. It was destroyed in 912 AD.
To be continued...

A horse-drawn carriage, Bloomberg and de Blasio.

A ride through Central Park in a horse-drawn carriage is one of New York City’s most iconic attractions, immortalized in books, movies, TV, and Broadway plays.  Horse-drawn carriages may be a thing of the past when the new mayor takes control. The horses that power the industry may be sent to slaughter. 
(Read more in Daily News)

When Olmsted designed Central Park in 1858 he created  curving drives to offer beautiful vistas while driving.

In 1863, the first exclusively tourism-based carriage rides were offered for a fare of 25 cents a passenger.  The Central Park stage line operated at that rate for the rest of the 19th century.  During the pre-World War II period  there were only fifteen carriages on the park.  In the late 1940s or early 50s   New York City sold 68 medallions to a few stable owners for a fee of $100 to $200.
More than half of NYC’s carriage horses are in Clinton Park Stables ( 618 W. 52nd St.) ,  opened in 2003. The stable was originally built in the early 20th century to house the freight horses for a cardboard company.  The second-largest carriage stable in New York is West Side Livery,  in a  Hell’s Kitchen.
The two most popular rides through Central Park are the "standard ride" , 20 minutes long  down one of the Park's original carriageways with a price $50,  and the "long ride" , 40 minutes and $90.
The city’s licensed carriage horse industry — 68 carriages, 216 horses and 282 drivers — brings in roughly $15 million annually, officials estimate. Drivers charge $50 for a 20-minute ride through Central Park, and $20 for each additional 10 minutes. On a good day, they can make 15 trips, grossing at least $750 plus tips
Under city law, the horses are not allowed to work more than nine hours at a time. They must be covered with blankets in the winter and must be taken off the streets if the temperature hits 90 in the summer. (Read more in ABC News)
“Carriage horses have traditionally been a part of New York City,”   said Mayor Michael Bloomberg,  who consistently supported the horse-drawn carriage industry . “The tourists love them…. They ( the horses)  are well treated, and we’ll continue to make sure that they are well treated.”  (Read more in New York Times

Three weeks before the city's November 5 mayoral election, the top candidates both support ending the practice and say they are open to alternatives, like replacing the horses with 8-seat electric cars.
"We are in the biggest, densest urban area in North America. It is not a place for horses. They are not meant to be in traffic jams," Bill de Blasio said said at a press conference with New York Class, an animal rights group. 
Activist groups leading the charge against horse carriages say the animals will be fine, but experts have a different opinion.

It costs at least $200 a month to care for one retired horse, experts say, so the tab for sending 200 horses to live out their days   would start at $480,000 a year. Based on the average age of the horses clip clopping through Central Park, and their life expectancy, the total cost could climb past $8 million over their lifetimes.  It is very possible that the animals could be destroyed due to the expensive maintenance and the effort to "rescue" the horses could lead to their slaughter instead.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg  resigns in December, after 12 years shaping everything in the Big Apple.  And the days the days of carriage horse rides through Central Park are numbered.
So if you plan take a romantic carriage ride around beautiful Central  Park as  Woody Allen and Mariel Hemingway did  (  "Manhattan")  or like to  hide in  a horse drawn carriage like  Kevin  (“Home Alone 2”)- do not wait. Hurry- it could be too late!