Once the holiday season officially kicks off, calendars fill up pretty quickly. It’s not just the holiday shopping and decorating, or all the cooking and baking. It’s the holiday parties, too. From office functions to dinner gatherings, it can sometimes feel like we’re caught in an endless loop of Nat King Cole, hors d’oeuvres and eggnog. But what if you moved the location of that soirée to a yacht, added a live band and some caroling, threw in some cocktails and brews, spiked that cocoa and served it with cookies, and for good measure, offered stunning nighttime views of the greatest city in the world?
I’m from, well, all over the place, having moved countless times around the country as a child. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just say I’m mostly from the midwest. Lynn is from Malaysia. So, as you might imagine, we have quite an eclectic mishmash of traditions between the two of us. This gives us reason to celebrate throughout the entire year, which is a lot of fun. However, I’ve found that what I particularly enjoy are the new traditions we’ve created throughout our journey together. One such tradition that began a few years back was our annual late-night pilgrimage to the department store holiday windows in New York City.
New York City doesn’t do low-key or subdued or understated. Those words aren’t even in its vocabulary. It’s a “Go Big or Go Home” kinda town. So it’s not difficult to imagine just how festive the Big Apple is during the holidays. From incredible light and holiday-themed displays to one-of-a-kind events and activities, New York City makes it nearly impossible to get your Grinch on. Now, there are plenty of things worth parting with your hard-earned cash for. Big-ticket events like the Radio City Christmas Spectacular or the New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker are huge draws every year. But we’re here to let you in on a little secret: you don’t need to break the bank to enjoy the holiday season in The City That Never Sleeps.
There’s always something new going on in New York City, so it takes a special event to keep the locals coming back again and again. The Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade is just such an event. Attending the parade has become one of our favorite Halloween rituals, so we were pretty brokenhearted to hear it had been canceled. Long story short, the event had become so popular that the park was requiring insurance to cover its many attendees, and the financial burden was just too great to bear.
In the earliest days of our relationship, food was common ground. And Lynn was far and away the more experienced gastronome. She turned me on to Malaysian cuisine. She explained that the Chinese food I had been eating–and genuinely liked–was, in fact, American food, promptly taking me out for the real thing. Lynn even gave me my first bites of sushi (or should I say “attempted” bites, as I struggled mightily with chopsticks back then). There was one food, however, that needed no cross-cultural exchange, clarification, or introduction: chocolate. When it came to chocolate, we were on the same footing from the start. It’s the foodie version of a universal language, after all.
Lynn and I have been married for a number of years. When we started this blog, we really had no idea what kind of journey we were embarking on. The path has been one with many surprises, but one of the unexpected happy side effects is that we get to go on a lot of dates. Coffee dates, museum dates, let’s-try-something-new dates. Dates where we jump in a car or hop on a plane. Some dates still end up being duds, but when an event is going to check off a lot of boxes, we know the odds we’ll have a good time improve significantly. And Photoville checks off a lot of boxes.
For nearly five years, Anthony Bourdain worked on an ambitious, quixotic scheme to create a 155,000 square foot international night market at New York City’s Pier 57. The overwrought and ill-fated venture ultimately ended with Bourdain conceding defeat in December 2017, a mere six months shy of his tragic and untimely death. Like everyone else, I was shocked and saddened by the news of Bourdain’s suicide. But, if I’m being honest (as unpopular as this opinion may be), I didn’t feel the same way about the demise of his passion project.
The Met Museum is so iconic and so synonymous with New York City that every time I approach the steps, a little highlight reel plays in my head. The scene from When Harry Met Sally where Billy Crystal says in a funny voice, “Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash, but I would love to partake in your pecan pie.” Blair and Serena’s power lunches from Gossip Girl. Toulouse-Lautrec’s The Sofa. The Psycho Barn reproduction on the roof a couple of years ago. It’s where my New York City fantasy and reality worlds collide, and it never gets old. But nothing gets me more excited than trekking to the annual Costume Institute Exhibit every summer.
Have you ever wondered how we came up with the name of our blog, Mad Hatters NYC? We actually drew inspiration from a number of sources, the most obvious one being Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. We’re not the only ones to draw a parallel between New York City and Carroll’s land of magic and make-believe. But one day a year, the comparison takes on a life on its own. During the New York City Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival, a large group of Mad Hatters descends on Fifth Avenue and the world of fantasy and reality collide.
Tradition is one of those things I found stifling when I was younger, something I desperately needed to break free of. Being of mixed race meant having two sets of rules to adhere to. It meant being saddled by two laborious sets of obligations. I couldn’t wait until I didn’t have to be somewhere I didn’t want to be–I was young and had way cooler things to do, after all. (Cue the eye roll here.) But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a renewed understanding and appreciation for it. Community becomes less about conforming and more about belonging.