Christmastime (Not) in the City

The white blanketed streets and trees tell us that Christmas is less than a week away. Where better to celebrate the holiday than New York City, home to the Rockefeller tree (despite their annual tree killing, even they are trying to go green), the Rockettes, and the outrageous Christmas windows in every department store? Every year folks come in droves simply to experience New York at Christmastime.

But, tourist or local, no matter how lovely a New York Christmas can be, the throngs are likely to get you down sooner or later, and yet it would be a shame to miss out on all the holiday cheer simply due to a little claustrophobia. The solution? Step (or ride) away from Fifth Avenue to the sundry other holiday haunts (and events) in the New York area. Here are some of our favorites.

Gifted: a Holiday Market
With those quaint little tents at Bryant Park, Union Square, Columbus Circle, and even Grand Central, you may have thought the “holiday gift market” was cornered, Manhattan, but not so fast. Enter Gifted, a truly unique gift market across from Brooklyn Flea. Whether you live in New York or have just come in to town to do a little holiday shopping, the goal is the same: buy unique (and enviable) gifts that could only have been purchased here; no problem at Gifted, where beautiful gifts abound. Light up their lives with the crazy creations of ilampe, feed ‘em with delectables by Whimsy and Spice, or just plain entertain with fun books from Lookybook. Just make sure you get there on Sunday, December 21st: it’s the last day!

Brooklyn Masonic Temple, 317 Clermont Ave (at Lafayette Ave.), Fort Greene; Sundays, December 4, 14, and 21: 11am-6pm. G, A, or C train to Clinton/Washington Aves.

Brooklyn Sleigh (er, Bus?) Ride
The Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights knows how to festoon anything with lights. The Italian-American neighborhood will make you want to celebrate Christmas even if it’s not your thing. Tony Muia (also known for his Booklyn Pizza Tour) makes it easy to check out the festivities with a three and a half hour Christmas Lights Tour. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in December.

Call 212.209.3370 or visit the website for more information. If the recession has you gasping at the prices ($55 for adults and $45 for kids), forgo the guided bus tour and improvise your own by taking the R to 86th Street; the magic happens in the area between 80th to 86th Streets and 10th to 13th Avenues with the majority of the twinkly spectacle on 84th Street.

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown
The Pig Brooch Theatre Company knows what’s up: Christmas isn’t Christmas without a little Charlie Brown. And Charlie Brown live? All the better. The company’s “extremely faithful” rendition of a holiday classic features actors performing (verbatim folks) the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, accompanied by a jazz trio performing Vince Guaraldi classic music. Friday, December 19, 7pm, Saturday and Sunday December 20 and 21, 2pm and 7pm. Tickets $10.

Contact Justin Tyler (617.429.1010). The performance is at the Brooklyn Lyceum, 227 4th Avenue. Take the R train or B63 or B37 bus to Union Street.

Chanukah Live: Lighting of the Largest Chanukah Menorah in Queens
Oh yes, if size matters, this is the place to go. Not only will you see a huge menorah, you’ll sing, dance and eat your way through edible Chanukah gelt, sufganiyot and latkes. The Chanukah Live lighting will be on Sunday, December 21st. Festivities start at 5:30 pm.

For information, call 718.225.6750×247 or 718.464.0778 On The Lawn at Chabad of Eastern Queens; 211-05 Union Turnpike, Hollis Hills. Take the F to Jamaica/179th St.

Gingerbread Adventures
That often overlooked borough known as the Bronx has a must-visit Christmas extravaganza at the New York Botanical Garden, labeled as the Holiday Train Show, where a 26-foot-tall Fraser fir is outdone only by a train show, gingerbread land, and by baking favorites from Mark Tasker (Balthazar) to Jill Adams (The Cake Studio). If that’s not enough, it’s educational too: the innovative exhibit allows kids to discover firsthand the spices and tastes that go into making the most delicious Christmas treat. Through January 11, Tue-Fri 1:30-5:30pm, Sat-Sun 10am-5:30pm. Adults $20, Seniors/Students $18, Children $10.

Take the B, D, or 4 to Bedford Park Blvd., then take the Bx26 bus east to the Garden’s Mosholu Gate entrance or walk eight blocks down the hill on Bedford Park Blvd to the end (approximately 20 minutes). Turn left onto Kazimiroff Blvd and walk one block to Mosholu Gate entrance. Alternatively, take the Metro-North Harlem local line to Botanical Garden Station. Walk across Kazimiroff Boulevard to the Garden’s Mosholu Gate entrance. Just 20 minutes from Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan (check out the holiday light show there every half hour).

Chanukah with Chabad
In the Chanukah spirit but don’t feel like schlepping all the way out to Jamaica? Celebrate with Chabad of Northeast Queens, where the festivities are often and lively. On Sunday, December 21, 6p.m., check out the Grand Menorah Lighting-complete with food, dancing and fire eating juggler-at Bay Terrace Shopping Center, Upper Level, 21245 26th Ave. On December 24th, when all those goyum are frantically finishing up their shopping, share in the Chanukah spirit with more music, latkes and a menorah lighting at Mazurs, 254-51 Horace Harding Blvd., or skip Chinese and a movie on the 25th of December and attend the Chanukah Wonderland at the Chabad Community Center, 212-12 26th Ave., an event that promises candle making sand art, a puppet show ($5 per person) and much more (grub and craft tickets $1 each or 6 for $5).

For all Chabad events, take the 7 train to Main Street/Flushing. Call 718.225.6750×247 for more information.

Photos: Courtesy Julia, Charles M. Schulz, and New York Botanical Garden