Who says museums are boring?

A visit to the big-name museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Natural History in New York, is usually on a tourist’s checklist of sights to see in the city.

But some people might find museums like this overwhelming, and maybe even a little boring. That’s where Museum Hack comes in.

Museum Hack is a young company made up of what they call “renegade tour guides” whose approach to museums is unconventional, and actually entertaining.

Museum Hack’s goal is to make the museum experience a memorable one, and one that will change the way visitors look at the art on display.

The guides are engaging and interactive and encourage people to think about what they’re seeing. They play games like one we played on “The Un-highlights Tour” of the Met, which I recently took, where we were supposed to find the oldest piece of sculpture in one of the Greco-Roman galleries. We also posed next to sculptures that reflect what we wished we looked like. (I posed next to a statue that reminded me of a Greek goddess.)

In addition to the Greek and Roman galleries, we saw Primitive Art from Africa and Oceania made in the 1950s, water lilies by Monet made when his vision was deteriorating, and we went to the American Wing where we saw a version of John Singleton Copley’s 1778 painting “Watson and the Shark,” while our guide Frank hummed “Bennie and the Jets” and we saw the famous “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”

In a room that was a replica of one of Marie Antoinette’s bed chambers, Frank went on about how smart she was saying “if she were still around today, she would take Silicon Valley by storm.” In another Silicon Valley reference, he showed us a Dutch bowl decorated with an image of a woman spanking her man because he “gave her the iPhone 4 instead of the iPhone 7.”

The groups are kept small, with no more than eight people per tour to give a more personal experience. The public tours include the “Un-highlights” tour of the Met and the Natural History museums, which seem to be popular and are offered the most. But there’s also a “Badass Bitches” tour of the Met that focuses on the impact of female artists like Georgia O’Keefe and others, and the VIP tour on and Saturday nights when the museum is open late. That one includes wine and chocolate to sweeten the pot.

To find out more go to https://museumhack.com/

Advertisements

Statues in Central Park that children will love

Central Park has something for everyone, including the littlest ones. Here are some don’t-miss statues the kids will love:

  1. Alice in Wonderland—This bronze statue depicts Lewis Carroll’s classic fairy tale character sitting on a giant mushroom as she’s surrounded by the Mad Hatter, White Rabbit, and Cheshire Cat and has her pet cat Dina sitting on her lap. The statue was commissioned in 1959 by philanthropist George Delacorte who intended it as a gift to the children of New York City as well as being a tribute to his late wife, Margarita, who read the story to their children and the Mad Hatter is believed to have been modeled after Mr. Delacorte. The statue is located near the East side of the park around 75th street.Alice in Wonderland
  2. Hans Christian Andersen—Located near the Alice in Wonderland statue, this bronze statue depicts the beloved Danish fairytale author of classics such as The Princess and the Pea, The Little Mermaid, and The Ugly Duckling of which the statue pays tribute. It features Andersen sitting on a bench with a duck by his feet gazing up as he reads a book opened to the first page of the story. The statue was a gift, by Danish and American children and funded primarily by the Danish-American Women’s Association on April 2, 1955, in honor of the 150th anniversary of Andersen’s birth. During the summertime, children gather for a special storytelling program to hear his classics read aloud.Hans
  3. Balto—Created by Frederick G.R. Roth, this bronze statue depicts a heroic Siberian husky named Balto. During the winter of 1925, a deadly outbreak of diphtheria hit the city of Nome in Alaska. The disease was especially devastating for children and the only medicine that could cure the illness was located in Anchorage, nearly a thousand miles southeast of Anchorage. Balto and his team of sled traveled through intense blizzard conditions to delivers jars of medicine to the children of Nome and Balto was the only dog to complete the final leg of the journey receiving wide recognition and praise from the media and general public. Balto’s statue was erected in Central Park in December 1925, and his story inspired a 1995 animated film. Located near the East Drive at 67th street.new balto
  4. Group of Bears—Perched on a circular step in the middle of a children’s playground, this statue is a popular favorite among many youngsters who enjoy climbing on them. They depict three large bears situated on a group of rocks with one bear standing on its back legs tall and proud in the center with the other two stand on all four legs on either side. Located at East 79th Street just south of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.new bears
  5. Honey Bear and Dancing Goat—These two beauties evoke a playful, carefree spirit that’s often associated with childhood innocence. The Honey Bear statue can be found inside a fountain on the north side of the Central Park Zoo building while the Dancing Goat statue can be found at the south side of the building. The water in the fountain is emitted from the mouths of five small frog statues at the feet of the bear and from the mouths of five duck statues at the feet of the goat. Located by the entrance of the Central Park Zoo on 64th street facing Fifth Avenue.
  6. Mother Goose—This enchanting piece features the beloved nursery rhyme character wearing large glasses, a witch’s hat, and a cape seen blowing in the wind as she sits atop a large goose with its feathers spread out. Beneath the goose are designs depicting clouds and beneath the clouds are scenes from the nursery rhymes Humpty Dumpty and Jack the Horner. Located at 71st street near the Rumsey Playground.new goose
  7. Delacorte Clock—On top of the archway that leads to the main section of the Central Park Zoo is something quite magical. A special clock donated by philanthropist George Delacorte in 1965, plays 44 melodious tunes from popular nursery rhymes that change with the seasons. The music plays every half-hour between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. as several bronze sculptures of animals circle around the clock. These animals include monkeys banging hammers against a bell; a penguin on drum; a hippo on violin; a bear and his tambourine; a concertina-playing elephant; a goat with pipes; and a kangaroo on horn. clock

 

The legendary Carnegie Deli reopens after nine month closure

 

carnegie

Photo by James and Karla Murray as it appears as the front cover image of our book “New York Nights” (Gingko Press 2012).

You may have noticed some long lines on Seventh Avenue between West 54th and West 55th streets, where hungry people are waiting to eat at the Carnegie Deli, which recently reopened after nearly a year.

The Carnegie, a famous Jewish deli is known for overstuffed sandwiches and other classic favorites, and for photographs of celebrities who have eaten there.

Some of the dishes are named for staff members and for big names such as Woody Allen who helped make the restaurant famous by featuring it in his 1984 film Broadway Danny Rose.

Carnegie Deli first opened in 1937 just a couple of blocks south of Carnegie Hall, for which it gets its name. For years the deli was owned by Leo Steiner, who welcomed customers with his warm and entertaining personality which attracted locals, tourists, and celebrities. Steiner’s business partner, Milton Parker, who was working mostly behind the scenes, took ownership in 1976 and expanded it in size. When Parker retired in 2002, his daughter Marian Harper Levine, with her then-husband Sanford Levine, took over.

The deli closed in April of 2015 for repairs but now locals and visitors alike can rejoice at once again noshing on their favorite mouth-watering delights. The sandwiches are about four inches thick and weigh more than a pound. Besides the Woody Allen sandwich, which contains copious amounts of corned beef and pastrami on rye bread.

Other popular favorites include “Milton’s Smorgasbord,” after the former owner, consisting of four baked miniature rolls stuffed with shrimp salad, egg salad, tuna salad, and chicken salad served with veggies on the side, or “Barry’s Delight” containing turkey, corned beef, and tongue, served with cole slaw and Russian dressing.

Make sure you bring an empty stomach but a full wallet as many of the dishes, especially the sandwiches, are quite pricey; the most expensive item is “Sarri’s Combination Fish Platter” that includes bagels, salmon, smoked white fish, and veggies.

There was a heated rivalry between Carnegie Deli and the similar Stage Deli located directly across the street and coincidentally opened the same year. The Stage Deli, which closed in 2012 due to lack of business, also offered hefty sandwiches named for entertainers and often engaged in disputes with Carnegie Deli over who had the best pastrami sandwiches. Today, it’s pretty clear who stood the test of time. Carnegie Deli also has outlets in Madison Square Garden, at Flushing Meadows during the U.S. Open, at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Chinese residents ring in the Year of the Monkey with community festivities

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 8.04.06 PM

 

 

This Monday, February 8th marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year, which is a very big deal in New York City, especially since there are Chinese neighborhoods in all five boroughs. Chinatown as New Yorkers know it is located in Manhattan within the streets that surround Canal Street to the east of Broadway. However, there are also Chinese sections within the borough of Queens in the neighborhoods of Flushing, Elmhurst, Corona, and Whitestone; and a few smaller sections in the other boroughs. Everyone in these communities always get excited when the new year rolls around.

 

The Chinese New Year falls of different dates every year anytime in between late January or early February, and each year is named for a different animal. There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. In the Chinese zodiac, 2016 represents the Year of the Monkey. Below is a list of events taking place in the neighborhoods to mark the occasion:

  1. Chinese New Year Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival: (Manhattan) This spectacular event sponsored by the group Better Chinatown Society also takes place at Sara D. Roosevelt Park where 600,000 firecrackers are lit to welcome the new year warding off evil spirits. People will be performing lion dances, a popular dance, and there will be lots of traditional food including dumplings, rice, and moon cakes. The ceremony will take place Feb. 8th at 11 a.m.

 

 

  1. Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival: (Manhattan) Now in its 17th year, hundreds of residents gather to watch the dancers and street performers incredible routines, people riding on floats dressed in lavish outfits wearing elaborate hats, dresses, and masks, and several marching bands. Festivities begin at Sara D. Roosevelt Park (Grand Street between Chrystie and Forsyth Streets) on Sunday, Feb. 14th at 1 p.m.

 

 

  1. Lunar New Year Dance Sampler: (Flushing, Queens) Come ring in the new year with performers who demonstrate dance from various countries like China, Korea, Taiwan, India, and Mexico. Performances will be held Sun Feb. 14th at noon at Flushing Town Hall located at 137-35 Northern Blvd., with free tickets available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

 

  1. Brooklyn Lunar New Year Parade: (Sunset Park, Brooklyn) Founded in 1987 by the Brooklyn Chinese American Association, this exciting event begins at 10 a.m. with performances by children and you’ll be able to but trinkets, sparklers, and firecrackers followed by a parade filled with lion and dragon dancing and marching bands beginning at 11 a.m. on 50th street and Eighth Ave.

 

  1. Lunar New Year Celebration: (Corona, Queens) This enjoyable event held at the Queens Zoo is filled with activities people of all ages can enjoy. These include making arts and crafts, watching a Monkey Puppet Show to celebrate the Year of the Monkey, a scavenger hunt throughout the zoo of all 12 animals of the zodiac, tea and fortune cookies, a story hour about the 12 animals, and a calligraphy workshop. Activities begin as early as 11 a.m. on Sat. Feb. 20th and Sun. Feb. 21st. at the Queens Zoo located at 53-51 111th St. by Flushing Meadow Park.

Why the Brooklyn Bridge holds a special place in New Yorkers’ hearts and minds

With more than 2,000 bridges and tunnels in New York City, the one that resonates in most New Yorkers’ hearts and minds is the Brooklyn Bridge – a true object of classic beauty, with a fascinating history.

Designed by John Roebling, the iconic structure opened on May 24, 1883, linking Manhattan and Brooklyn for the first time. It was the first steel-wire suspension bridge ever built, standing 1,600 feet tall and spanning 1,595 feet in length, the longest span in the world at the time.

Thousands of Brooklyn and Manhattan residents attended the opening ceremony, joining President Chester Arthur and New York Governor (later president) Grover Cleveland for the festivities, with more than 150,000 of them walking across the bridge’s pedestrian promenade and 1,800 vehicles on the roadway.

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is an activity that never loses its charm as more than 4,000 pedestrians and 3,000 cyclists cross the promenade daily enjoying fantastic views of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan skylines. It’s also a major roadway in the city, with 125,000 cars making the crossing every day.

When walking across the bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn, there is never a shortage of fun things to do once reaching the other side. You can enjoy authentic coal oven pizza from the famous Grimaldi’s Pizzeria and some of the finest ice cream made with all natural ingredients from the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, both located underneath the bridge. You can also spend some time in Brooklyn Bridge Park, or enjoy museums like the New York Transit Museum or the Brooklyn Museum where admission is free on every first Saturday of the month.

There are also numerous special events that take place every year on the Brooklyn Bridge such as the Five Borough Bike Tour held in May sponsored by TD Bank, the New York City Marathon held in November, and marches for various political causes.

The Brooklyn Bridge became a designated National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972. An American flag stands proudly on the bridge’s tower symbolizing victory, a favorite site for many photographers, painters, and filmmakers who are inspired by its graceful poise truly establishing it as a New York City icon.

brooklyn-bridge-2-H

Where to go ice skating in NYC

The winter season is in full swing now as cold temperatures have finally arrived in New York City after some unusually warm weather over the Christmas season. One popular seasonal activity locals like to do when it’s cold is ice-skating, and there are plenty of places to go whether you’re a beginner or have reached expert levels. Below are some of the city’s best:

 

 

  1. Rink at Rockefeller Center—Perhaps the most famous rink in New York City, skating in Rockefeller Center has long been a celebrated wintertime tradition since its opening in 1936. Visitors revel in twirling on the ice with an 18-foot gold statue of Prometheus gazing from above. The statue was created by Paul Manship and features the Greek Titan descending from Mount Olympus and encircled by the zodiac ring. For more information click here.

Rock Center

 

  1. Winter Village in Bryant Park—This winter wonderland is sponsored annually by Bank of America, whose New York headquarters are across the street. From October through March, the lawn in Bryant Park is transformed into a rink where skating is free (if you don’t have skates it’s $15 to rent). There are also several outdoor shops and food stands set up where you can get things like jewelry, winter garments, tree ornaments, and tasty treats like Wafels and Dinges. There’s even a pop-up restaurant and lounge called “Celsius” that offers spectacular views of the rink in the park. For more information click here.

 

BryantPark1

 

  1. Wollman Rink in Central Park—This popular rink opened in 1950 with funds donated by philanthropist Kate Wollman. Before the rink opened, people would go skating in the park’s famous lake and pond, which became closed to skaters in the 1940s. During the winter season, skaters marvel at the fantastic views of the New York City skyline. The romantic backdrop in the evening made the rink a popular spot for filmmakers with movies such as Serendipity, Love Story, and Autumn in New York. For more information click here.

 

Wollman Rink

New Year’s Eve in Times Square is a cultural phenomenon

NYE ball

Christmas is over, but the holiday season isn’t.

New Year’s Eve is next, and New Yorkers are making their plans. Wherever they are – at a party, a restaurant or at home watching it all on TV – they’ll likely be watching the celebration along with 1 million spectators gathered in the heart of Times Square, regardless of the weather, to wait for the bright, multi-colored ball to drop from atop the Times Tower building and ring in the New Year.

The tradition of celebrating New Year’s Eve in Times Square began in 1904, the year that the New York Times moved its offices to the area then known as “Longacre Square.” Adolph Ochs, the owner of the New York Times, successfully fought to have the area’s name changed.

That same year, Ochs decided to hold a celebration on the streets surrounding his building’s new headquarters to ring in the New Year. Festivities took place all day on Dec. 31, 1904, and lasted until midnight, when fireworks were set from the top of the tower. It’s said that the cheers of 200,000 spectators could be heard as far as the suburbs in Westchester County, 30 miles to the north. New Year’s festivities had previously been held at Trinity Church in the Financial District.

The New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square that night was so popular that Ochs decided to make it an annual tradition. Two years later, however, city officials banned the fireworks display, so Ochs came up with the idea of replacing them with a giant, illuminated ball made of iron and wood. Weighing 700 pounds, it was lowered from a flagpole on top of the tower, timed to reach the bottom exactly at midnight to welcome the year 1908.

Since then, watching the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square has become an iconic event that’s embedded in New York City’s culture, continuing every year with the exception of 1942 and 1943, during World War II.

The ball has also evolved over the years. The original was replaced in 1920 with one that weighed 400 pounds and made entirely of iron. It’s been replaced many times since, but the biggest transformation came on New Year’s Eve 1999, the Eve of the new millennium, when a new one made of Waterford crystals was introduced, featuring incandescent halogen bulbs emitting rainbow colors.

The next major milestone came on New Year’s Eve 2007, to commemorate 100 years since the first ball dropped. This “Centennial Ball” used an up-to-date LED lighting system. Finally in 2009, a fifth ball was introduced weighing almost six tons and standing 12 feet in diameter. It’s made of 2,688 triangular shapes made from Waterford crystal and shines with 32,256 Phillips Luxeon LEDs behind it. The ball sparkles at the top of the New York Times Tower every night following New Year’s Eve until the end of January.

But with New Year’s Eve crowds starting to gather early in the day, it’s practically impossible to navigate your way through the Crossroads of the World, let alone to try to find a place to get a good view. But don’t let that discourage you from having the chance to see this glorious ball up close; the event is broadcast on live television on several network stations.

The most famous show is Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on ABC-TV, created by the late, legendary radio and television personality who hosted it until he was sidelined by a stroke in 2004. After that, Ryan Seacrest took over as host of the show, which begins at 8 p.m. EST and will be co-hosted this year by Fergie and Jenny McCarthy, with performances by Carrie Underwood, One Direction, Nick Jonas, and Demi Lovato among others.

 

Where to go for Christmas masses and services in Manhattan

With Christmas close at hand, many Christians attend masses or services to celebrate the holiday at its essence. Below is a list of places of well-known places of worship that will offer services Christmas Eve.

 

  1. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral—Named for the patron Saint of New York, this Roman Catholic cathedral located on Fifth Avenue in the heart of midtown is a landmark attraction that never ceases to amaze visitors. Archbishop John Joseph Hughes laid out the groundwork for the cathedral in 1858 but the project was put on hold during the Civil War. After the war was over, architect James Renwick Jr. resumed work on his Gothic Revival style building which opened its doors in 1879 and is the headquarters of the Catholic Church in New York, attracting 5 million visitors a year. During the holidays this year, there are two versions of the Nativity scene on display. For more information on masses and services click here.

St. Patrick

 

  1. Trinity Church—This is the oldest Episcopal parish in Manhattan, located in the Financial District. The original was built in 1697, after receiving a charter from King William III and was made from stone set on 250 acres of land. The church was burned during the American Revolution in 1776 and remained in ruins until a new church was built in 1790. That building, however, was destroyed in 1839 when a heavy snowstorm hit damaging the roof. The current Gothic Revival style building was built in 1846 by Richard Upjohn, who modeled the front doors after Lorenzo Ghiberti’s bronze doors of the baptistery cathedral in Florence, Italy. There is also a cemetery next to the church where Alexander Hamilton, among others, is buried. Trinity Church has a parish called St. Paul’s Chapel, a few blocks north where George Washington worshipped after his inauguration in 1789. For more information on masses click here.

StPaulsChapel_RTcolor

  1. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine—This is the seat of the Episcopal Church in New York, located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Construction of this Gothic Revival building began in 1892 and it remains unfinished to this day. The interior was damaged by a fire in 2001 and reopened in 2008. Visitors are awed by its colossal size and interiors with gorgeous stained glass windows and seven chapels named for different Saints. There is also a sacred space outdoors next to the cathedral known as The Children’s Sculpture Garden. It features a statue called “Peace Fountain” in the center that illustrates the triumph of good over evil and is surrounded by small sculptures of animals and books with inspirational quotes made by grade-school children. For more information on services click here.Screen Shot 2015-12-19 at 8.09.48 AM
  1. Riverside Church—This interdenominational church is known for its massive size and its diversity, with its members representing more than 40 ethnic groups. This stunning Neo-Gothic style building located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan was the brainchild of John D. Rockefeller Jr., and preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick. Riverside Church is also known for its history of social justice, as many influential faith leaders and politicians have spoken there including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Clinton, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who delivered the eulogy at Jackie Robinson’s funeral service in 1972. For more information on services click here.

Riverside Church

  1. The First Presbyterian Church—This Gothic Revival style church located in the heart of Greenwich Village was founded in 1716, when 10 years earlier, Irish clergyman Francis Makemie held services in his home in New York for Scottish and Irish immigrants. In its early days during the American Revolution, the church became known as “The Church of the Patriots” as many of its members were involved in the fight against Great Britain. The church was located on Wall Street but suffered tremendous damage when the British burned New York, but that didn’t stop parishioners from coming together. The nearby Trinity church offered them use of its chapels as the resentment between Episcopalians and Presbyterians had ended. The church eventually relocated to its current spot on Fifth Avenue when architect Joseph C. Wells began working on the new building in 1844 modeling the sanctuary after the Church of St. Saviour in Bath, England, and the tower after the Magdalen College in Oxford. For more information on services click here.800px-First_Presbyterian_Church_from_south

The Rockettes dazzle the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Rockettes.jpg

One holiday tradition that has truly stood the test of time is a visit to the famous Radio City Music Hall in Rockefeller Center to see one of the best precision dance teams in the world—The Radio City Rockettes.

Surely, you’ve heard of the Rockettes who are known for their matching, sparkling costumes and for their precise Chorus-line dance routines, with their trademark eye-high kicks done in perfect unison.

The 36 Rockettes, each of whom must stand between 5’5 and 5’10.5 inches tall with the taller dancers in the center of the line, and the shortest dancers at the ends. They recruit new members every year, and all must have expert levels in all types of dance especially tap, jazz, and ballet.

The Rockettes have a long history that goes back 90 years. The original group formed in St. Louis in 1925 under the direction of Russell Markert and was known as the “Missouri Rockettes” consisting of 16 women.

After performing in the St. Louis area for several years, the group began a nationwide tour with New York City as one of the stops. Legendary showman S.L. “Roxy” Rothafel, the owner of the new Roxy Theater in Times Square, saw them perform and was instantly impressed.

When Rothafel opened Radio City Music Hall to the public on December 27, 1932, he chose them as the showplace’s first act and dubbed them “The Roxyettes.” They shared the stage with 17 other acts including the Flying Wallendas circus act, a promising young dancer named Martha Graham, and Ray Bolger, who would later play the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.

The Roxyettes’ performance was so successful that the following year, Radio City began a tradition of showing a feature film followed by a stage show starring the dancers, now called The Rockettes, making them icons of the popular concert hall. On December 21st, 1933, what is now known as The Radio City Christmas Spectacular premiered as a 30-minute show starring the Rockettes, who played holiday and winter-themed characters such as reindeer.

For the past eight decades, audience members have been enchanted by the production that tells the story of a parent and child navigating their way through New York City around Christmastime trying to find a special toy. Besides the Rockettes, other highlights of the show include a march of the wooden soldiers, a “Living Nativity” scene, and of course, Santa Claus! In addition to their Christmas show, the Rockettes also perform in the Radio City Spring Spectacular held in late March/early April and starring the Easter Bunny. They also perform and dance routine at The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Performances for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular are held daily until Jan. 3rd.

Charming department store windows tell classic Christmas tale

During the holiday season, New York City looks like a Winter Wonderland with sparkling decorations like a giant snowflake hanging above a busy midtown intersection streets, and colorful banners on building facades, and elaborate department store window displays at Lord & Taylor, Tiffany’s, Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Macy’s, among others.

Among the more appealing and popular displays are the ones in Macy’s, the world’s largest department store. The window that’s attracting the most attention this year is the one with characters from Charlie Brown, as 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the airing of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.

However, there’s another window filled with characters from a true story that many people might not know. That’s the story of Virginia O’Hanlon, a hopeful young girl living in New York who believed in Santa Claus and the spirit of Christmas.

The year was 1897 and the month was September, when eight-year-old Virginia began to have doubts after her classmates teased her and insisted that Santa Claus is a myth. This worried Virginia as she was certain that there really was someone who arrived on a sleigh led by reindeer, came down chimneys, and lefts presents for good children in stockings and under the tree.

When Virginia came home from school one day, she asked her father, Dr. Philip O’Hanlon, if Santa Claus was real. Unsure of how to answer, he suggested that Virginia write a letter to the Editorial Department of The Sun newspaper, a prominent local newspaper back in the day, saying that “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” So Virginia did just that, and in the September 21, 1897, issue of The Sun, in the question and answer section, was a lengthy reply assuring her that she was right all along.

The second paragraph of the letter began with a sentence that still resonates more than 100 years later: “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” The next line reads, “He exists as certainly as love and generosity exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”

Sure enough, seeing verification in black and white and in one of New York’s most famous newspapers restored Virginia’s faith and impressed her classmates. The editorial’s author was The Sun’s editor Francis P. Church, and the letter became one of his most famous editorials.

After Church’s death in 1906, his letter was reprinted in the newspaper every year until The Sun stopped publishing in 1950. Virginia O’Hanlon’s story continues to be inspirational to both kids and adults and has been the subject of children’s books and made-for-TV movies.

Since 2008, Macy’s has been using the story to kick off a campaign encouraging children to write letters to Santa Claus and drop them in a mailbox in “Santaland” in Macy’s children’s section. For every letter received, Macy’s donates a dollar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation that helps fulfill the wishes of children living with life-threatening illnesses, with a goal of reaching a $1,000,000.

You may have noticed that above the main entrance to Macy’s the word “Believe” spread across in giant, bright letters. That’s part of the official title of the campaign, which is “Believe in the Magic of Giving.”

Children are invited to write their letters in the store and decorate them using materials like stickers and glitter. Also since 2008, the windows at Macy’s main entrance feature bits of text telling the story, with animated models of Virginia, her family, her classmates, Francis Church, and Santa Claus. Every year crowds of locals and tourists and families with young kids come to marvel at these adorable characters and engaging story.