The island, to many, is split into three parts: uptown, midtown, and downtown. This isn’t a geographical separation, there aren’t strict borders and the only sign of change between each place is the decreasing numbers on the subway down to South Ferry.
However, there is a separation in the atmosphere, one which becomes heightened during the holiday season…
Uptown is Columbia; the area of New York I know best- well, about as much as someone with limited sense of direction can know an area. Here, the shift into December seemed non-existent, until the annual tree-lighting ceremony.
On a chill, dark November night the ceremony commenced, with me and a mass of cramped students queuing around campus for free shirts and donuts. Acapella groups serenaded the crowds as we sipped hot chocolate; the mood was odd, though enchanting.
A friend and myself agreed to wrap up in more layers and return for the lighting.
Now, this won’t be a surprise for anyone who knows me, but I missed the tree-lighting. I returned to an empty scene, donuts gone and acapella groups nowhere to be found.
The scene was still incredible. All at once, the entrance to campus transformed into a delicately-lit, festive forest. And, in the coming days snow quickly powdered the pathways and snowmen were made. Christmas was cast over the campus and lingered for the next few weeks.
Mid-town. This is the area everyone knows, even if you haven’t been to New York, you know it. Times Square, the Rockefeller, the Empire State building, 5th avenue; this area of the island is a tourist treasure-trove.
Festive spirit didn’t subtly arrive to midtown, it poured out in early November; shops were decked with more baubles than you could imagine and each tree seemed larger than the last. Everything smelt like pumpkin-spice and the town was lined with more people than I thought possible.
Downtown; the financial district. This area seemed perpetually stuck in late November, the streets were partly decorated as though approaching Christmas, but it hadn’t arrived. To me, this area of the city is too still. But when an icy chill ran past the stock exchange it faintly felt like Christmas.
Each part of Manhattan does not seamlessly blur into one isolated island, the regions are more like separate peninsulas; the mood and surroundings are starkly unique but stunning nonetheless.
The run up to the holidays in New York is unlike anywhere in the world and I will miss this odd, mismatched city, and all its celebrations, wholeheartedly.