New York City celebrates the holidays amidst COVID-19


Claire Moore '22

The holidays in New York City may look different this year, however, Christmas spirit remains high.

Holiday spirit remains high in New York City, New York with the continuation of prioritizing the health and safety of all during the coronavirus pandemic.  Undeterred by this year’s hardships, the City and State of New York will hold festive celebrations with heightened precautions to promote much-needed Christmas joy. 

The Radio City Rockettes wore masks in this year’s socially distanced Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Courtesy of Mr. Peter Kramer

The 94th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade officially began the holiday season November 26.  Partnering with the City and State of New York, the Macy’s team worked to adapt the parade to COVID-19 restrictions through adjusting safety procedures.  Instead of marching down the traditional two-and-a-half-mile route, the parade took place over several days with no spectators to maintain safety, according to

Even with these changes, the parade’s revered balloons, floats, street performances, and Santa Clauses still made appearances on National Broadcasting Company (NBC) Thanksgiving morning, adding a sense of normalcy to the day.  The show also incorporated other canceled parades, including New York City’s Pride March and the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, and featured a special remote performance from singer-songwriter Mrs. Dolly Parton promoting her Christmas album entitled “A Holly Dolly Christmas,” according to 

Another inaugural Christmas tradition is the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting in the Rockefeller Plaza.  There was no public access to the tree’s ceremonial lighting this year, however, NBC broadcasted the event during its “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” program December 2, according to  The ceremony integrated performances from musicians such as the group Pentatonix and Mr. Brett Eldredge.  Viewers could also see a musical number from Broadway’s “Ain’t Too Proud” and a special appearance from the Radio City Rockettes, according to

A Santa in Franklinville, New Jersey holds outdoor photoshoots at a Christmas tree farm.  Courtesy of Mr. Curt Hudson

Beginning December 3 and stretching to January 2021, visiting hours for the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree are from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.  In order to enforce social distancing, visitors will virtually queue utilizing Quick Response (QR) codes around Rockefeller Center.  Groups of four will be able to view the tree for five minutes on distinct floor markers six feet apart with masks mandatory at all times.  On Christmas Day, the lights will shine for a full 24 hours in recognition of the holiday.

Another reimagined tradition is socially distanced visits to Santa Claus.  Due to safety measures, children cannot sit on Santa’s lap and tell him their Christmas wishes as they did in previous years.  Aside from health concerns, Santas also worry about their own livelihoods due to the cancellation of many profitable home visits and holiday parties, according to  Despite challenges, children can still see Santa with masks and often through a Plexiglass wall.  Some Santas are also offering five-minute one-on-one Zoom meetings for those who are unable to visit in-person.  Hudson Yards, a development in New York City, is likewise promoting a digitalized Santa experience along with other attractions, including over two million holiday lights, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

Health and safety regulations have led to the cancellation of all Broadway performances through May 30, 2021, according to  The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is typically the highest-grossing period of the year for Broadway, but without shows and tourists, the industry’s economic standstill continues.  Striving to spread some holiday cheer, the Tony Award-winning cast of the hit musical Hadestown recorded a special holiday album entitled “If the Fates Allow” that released publicly November 20, according to The Wall Street Journal.  

Miss Michaela Gorman, Upper School Drama Teacher and Director of Drama Productions, shared her sympathy for performers impacted by the Broadway shutdown and global theater closures.

“I am heartbroken for all of those whose lives and livelihoods have been upended by the Broadway shutdown and, indeed, by the closure of theatres all over the world,” Miss Gorman said.  “It is a very difficult moment for this art form that is inherently rooted in human connection and the gathering of people for a live performance.”

Although COVID-19 regulations remain, adjusted Christmas festivities continue to spread cheer during these unprecedented times.  Miss Gorman is similarly inspired as an educator to instill positivity in her students amidst the uncertainty.

“This is a moment that has made me feel very fortunate and motivated as a theatre educator to ensure that my students have the opportunity to continue studying and creating theatre,” Miss Gorman said.  “As future theatre makers, they are using this moment to think about fundamentals in a measured but hopeful way.  They are thinking about what they will create and how they will innovate.  They care so much about this art form, both what it means and where it is going, and I think the future of theatre is in such safe hands.”  

BalletCollective’s innovative Nutcracker performance allows audiences to view the classic ballet while following safety guidelines.  Courtesy of Mr. Troy Schumacher

The Radio City Rockettes and New York City Ballet have both canceled their respective classic holiday shows, Christmas Spectacular presented at Radio City Music Hall and The Nutcracker held at Lincoln Center, according to The Wall Street Journal.  However, one dance group known as BalletCollective is holding a version of The Nutcracker on an estate in Amenia, New York, according to  In this immersive and unique show, small groups will wander around the estate to experience the time-honored ballet in a different way than in theaters.  Performances began December 4 and last through December 23.  NBC also aired the “Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes–At Home Holiday Special” December 2, providing all with an opportunity to see the Rockettes perform, according to

Junior Alexandra Hannett, a dancer at Greenwich Dance Studio, gave her insight into how performance cancellations have universally impacted dancers during the Christmas season.

“As a dancer, watching shows around this time of the year like The Nutcracker and the Rockette Christmas Spectacular is usually very inspiring for me and it gets me particularly excited for the Christmas season, but because of the cancellations, I haven’t really been able to experience that same connection between dance and Christmas,” Alexandra said.  “However, I can always watch the past shows that were filmed and new televised performances, which are still engaging and impressive.  I’m able to really appreciate what I’m viewing because I know how challenging it can be to execute some moves that performers make to look so effortless.”

Featured Image by Claire Moore ’22