As some of you know, I spent my childhood (I hesitate to say I grew up) in a Long Island suburb of New York City.

As a kid (and, actually later, as an adult as well), I always loved going into The City this time of year! The City was beautiful, the people were happy and friendly, the chestnuts from the street vendors were delicious, and even the piles of black snow had a certain je ne sais quoi.

My friends and I would take the LIRR to Penn Station. Our first stop was always the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). Every year they seemed to have a new astronomical explanation for the Star of Bethlehem. After the planetarium, we would check out the dinosaur exhibit in the AMNH.

Next, we would head for lunch at the Horn & Hardart Automat, which was, for me, my first “small plates” or tapas restaurant, though I didn’t know it. My favorites were the mac and cheese as well as several other side dishes.

After lunch we would wander around the city, making sure we checked out the displays in the windows of Macy’s and Gimbels Department Stores. As part of the wander we always went by Rockefeller Center to watch the skaters and see the Christmas Tree. Finally, tired, but happy, we would make our way back to Penn Station and hop on the train home…it is a wonderful memory.

One of the wonderful things about it was that it didn’t matter what your beliefs were, or if you celebrated Christmas. What mattered was the feeling of good cheer and fellowship we felt all around us….I hope that you feel the good cheer and fellowship around you as well, this year and every year….