I traced the steps of Buddy the Elf yesterday, visiting the iconic sites of a magical land called New York City in search of the Christmas Spirit. Elf is my very favorite Christmas movie, and the fact that I was housesitting within reach of the City during the holiday season tickled me to no end. (Imagine Buddy’s shoe shine! lol) After many months of wandering in the wilderness, this would be a different kind of Vision Quest for me, a journey that would bring me both delight and challenge.
My intention was to use the character of Elf as a reference point to connect to the energy of New York City dressed in her holiday best. Would there be magic in the air? Would I be able to feel it? Were others affected by it? And if so, how?
I got into character and made my way to the City.
Buddy the Elf has a childlike innocence about him, and New York City fills him with wonder. He is friendly and outgoing, and his natural proclivity is to spread Christmas cheer wherever he goes. His journey to New York City was an arduous one, but his important mission buoyed and carried him – to find his dad and discover who he really was. He arrives in the City with high hopes. He is kind to strangers, even the naughty ones. He says Yes!to opportunity and gives it his best effort, spreading joy in menial tasks and dark places. He falls in love, gets his heart broken, and still manages to save Christmas. I tried on my Elf heart and followed in his footsteps.
YouTube video link here!
The crowds were already bustling in the early afternoon on Sunday, just one week before Christmas Eve. I parked just off the Hudson, donned my Santa cap, and made my way through Hell’s Kitchen and into Manhattan. I didn’t actually do any skipping or hopping through the crosswalks, but my insides were bubbling. Everyone looked so normal and busy, and I felt a little self-conscious in my Santa cap at first. Then I giggled at myself. It is New York after all, a place where anything goes. Still, I thought of Buddy in his Elvinwear and felt a sortof kinship in my slightest of standing out.
I passed through Times Square and looked for some fun people to connect with. I wanted to hear if anyone was feeling the spirit of Christmas. I wanted to share mine. I chatted with some ladies from California. I posed with Elmo and Deadpool. I petted a puppy in a Christmas tuxedo collar. Things were going well so far!
My next destination was Macy’s (Gimbels). It was enchanting and overwhelming all at the same time. Lavishly decorated, the store was HUGE, the crowds were HUGE, and… everyone seemed so serious. I headed for the perfume department, wanting to engage someone in a little banter over passion fruit spray. What I found was a literal gauntlet of associates, each more than happy to spray me and offer me their little white tester strips, but not a jolly one in the bunch that I thought would want to play with me. They were there to SELL, and I would let them do their job. I was a little disappointed in my lack of initiation with a single sales associate, but with so many people to serve and perhaps a big commission on the line, I wanted to be mindful of their role in the upscale New York department store.
I lifted my spirit on the escalator. Waiting for a moment where I would not impede the traffic flow, I toed at it once, imagining I was seeing it for the first time. As I stretched my legs across four moving stairs, I felt the rising sensation in my belly, and the silliness of my antics made me smile. I found the toilets, but they seemed totally normal sized to me. 😉 I had imagined myself singing at the top of my lungs, “I’m in a store, and I’m singing!” But even with the return of joviality, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was just so intimidated. How did Buddy get over all of that intimidation? What might have happened if I had found the gumption to belt it out over the crowd? I imagined people would frown at me in disapproval. Maybe they would have laughed instead. I shrank from finding out, and I found a deeper appreciation for Buddy’s courage, and a deeper respect for his conviction with his message.
Back outside, the air was crisp, and the crowds were gathered around the elaborate window displays, oooohing and aaaahing and recording. In fact, everywhere I turned people were recording moments and memories with their smartphone cameras. They could sense the magic afoot. It was a different world among the window shoppers.
From there, I found the towering Empire State Building and took a spin in Buddy’s revolving door. It was delightful!, like running on a merry-go-round, only a bit more naughty since this was not your typical playground. I was starting to feel like a kid again, loosening up and having a little fun while the adults around me were busy adulting. This was what Buddy the Elf would have wanted, to make gingerbread houses and eat cookie dough and snuggle.
The line at Magnolia’s Bakery for the “World’s Best Cup of Coffee” was stretched out the door and down the block! I saw others checking the Google Map of the Elf Walk on their phones, verifying that we were indeed in the right place. Where was the lighted sign pointing the way? I guess finally being noticed for having the world’s best cup of coffee has paid off – the place has certainly been upgraded since Buddy blindfolded Jovie here.
I needed to charge my phone, so I sought out a less packed place where I felt I could catch my breath, plug in, and process what I had seen and felt so far. Just a few blocks further up 6th Avenue was Joe and The Juice, a coffee and juice bar with a nice vibe and a couple of empty seats – one being right in the window and next to an outlet. As I sipped my ginger latte, my eyes were drawn to a big LOVE sculpture and an even bigger line of people waiting to be photographed in front of it. Here is where I sat, journaling, phone charging, and watching couple after couple smile and hug and kiss in front of the LOVE. What a beautiful sight I had been led to *become still* in front of. The spirit of Christmas felt effusive and alive here.
I headed to Central Park as the sun set and the bright City lights replaced its glow. I left them behind for now, maneuvering my way around decorated carriages with horses offering sleigh rides, their regal hooves clopping the roads behind me. I slipped into the stillness of the park, where night had fallen and the pond had frozen and snow still sat in great patches on the ground. Street lamps sprinkled the pathway, shedding just enough light to navigate between the shadowy hushes of this winter oasis. Here I stood for a great while, grounding, until a fresh serenity filled me, like a breath of fresh air from the North Pole.
Buddy and Jovie took their first romantic date skipping between the luxurious Christmas window displays on 5th Avenue. These bright lights were calling me now, winking in the distance. In fact, the whole City now sparkled and shined. Entire skyscrapers were glitzed out, most notable being Tiffany’s. There were dazzling ribbons and bows and candy canes. There were diamond-studded dinosaurs and panthers too. The crowds grew thicker and thicker as I approached Rockefeller Plaza, and I grew giddy as I inched my way among them, shuffle-stepping to the carols playing from the street stereos. “I’ve never seen anything like it!” exclaimed a silver-haired little lady wearing a faux fur chapeau and red lipstick, smiling from ear to ear and clinging to the hand of the smart waistcoat in front of her.
Saks 5th Avenue had an enormous light and music show, and the air felt totally electric in the crescendo. The square leading down to the ice skating rink took my breath away. Glorious angels stood tall with their horns of proclamation pointing toward the sky and flocking the fountain pools. The Granddaddy Evergreen stood loud and proud at the end, shining his light down over the skaters circling hand in hand. This is where Buddy and Jovie had their first kiss. “I love her! I love her! And I don’t care who knows it!” Cameras and smiles and laughter and awe abounded. It truly felt like I was in a magical land.
Sure, there were impatient crowds too. There was rampant commercialism. There was heartbreak in the homeless scattered about, one with a sign that announced he was “looking for a miracle – $37 will put me in a motel room.” There were also vendors with naked hands, trying to move their wares, artists spray painting nightscape scenes, and food trucks filling the air with succulence and petroleum. I saw all of these things, and I gathered them into my heart. I spoke blessing into them and released them.
I did find the Spirit of Christmas, right there in the middle of the lights and the crowds and the candy canes and the trees and the streets and the homeless and the hoopla. I followed the invitation into magic, and I left my cares behind. I allowed myself to be filled with joy, and a deep peace settled into me. It was a choice. I could choose to focus on what worried me, or I could choose to focus on wonder. I chose wonder.
As a vision quester, I have come to understand that focusing your energy is like watering your garden. What you water tends to grow. Celebrating in the Spirit of Christmas is simply choosing to believe that magic is possible. And as we focus our energy into those magical possibilities, they grow. They grow and they blossom into good cheer, presence, generosity and other marvelous gifts. They bring us together as one heart, one people, one community, one earth.
Doing all the stuff of Christmas does not bring its Spirit to life. Like being in Macy’s, all of the trimmings and trappings were there, but joy was not. It was stifling. If we do all the stuff of Christmas but do not follow the invitation to magic, we have missed the point. In every good holiday movie, Christmas is saved by *believing* in its magic and sharing that magic with others. I believe in the Spirit of Christmas, and in it I have discovered who I really am.
Many thanks to Melissa at TickledInNYC.com for creating the unofficial Elf walking tour of New York City. I was definitely not the only one following it! Click here to download the tour and follow in the footsteps of the Elf himself yourself!