family traditions: macy's holiday lights show

1:34 PM

Philadelphia may not be as decadent and elegant as New York when it comes to our Christmas celebrations, but we definitely have a few things that simply cannot be found elsewhere in the nation. One of these holiday traditions is the Macy's Christmas Lights Show.

When I was a kid, Macy's was actually John Wanamaker's and was one of the "higher class" department stores we always wished we could afford clothes from. Luckily, I had a brother who worked in the upstairs restaurant, the Crystal Tea Room, and we would occasionally be invited to have a nice lunch around my birthday and the holidays where we would catch the hourly light show. Even when he left the Tea Room, my mother and I would hop on the 47 bus and travel up to do some shopping and catch the show. (I would also sneak out of work when I was older to see the show and do some Christmas shopping!)

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In the late 90's Wanamaker's closed and became Lord & Taylor's, which then became Macy's about ten years later. There were fears that during these takeovers the world famous organ and the Christmas lights would become a thing of the past, however, with help from nonprofits like the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ, the daily pipe organ shows (taking place at noon each day) and the Christmas Light Show have survived the transitions and have even earned a protected status.

IMG_5829 IMG_5847 The five story musical light display, which originated in 1956, runs every other hour now, and although it only last some fifteen minutes, you can enjoy Christmas classics like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, and, of course, Santa! It was completely modernized back in 2006 - 2007, when they exchanged the traditional bulbs for LED lights, added and even bigger Christmas Tree to the center, and changed narrators (who is now Julie Andrews). When I was a child, there were a series of colorful fountains that erupted at the climax of the show, however, these have since been retired due to "safety concerns." Instead, a large Santa Train was added to the top of the light wall for the finale.

IMG_5725 IMG_5863 Ever year since E was born we check out the light show at least once. Sometimes he is into it, sometimes not so much. For some kids, the bright lights and the loud music accompanied by the screams of other toddlers and the shouts of customers trying to hear themselves over the music can be a little much, but chances are they will stop and at least listen to their favorite song when it is comes around. Plus, after the show the kiddos can hop on the escalator and see Santa, after a stroll through the Dickens' Village of course. This year, they even installed a Build-A-Bear workshop to get more money out of parents for the kids to enjoy while you wait for your photos to be printed.

If you are not in the Philadelphia area this Christmas and are interested in checking out what the show is all about, you can visit, YouTube for some user uploaded videos of the event.

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