Last weekend was the annual ritual. We meet at the eagle, that is, in the Grand Court of the old Wanamaker’s department store, grab a seat on the floor, and watch the Christmas light show.
The Wanamaker’s light show has evolved from state-of-the-art to retro and kitschy to sadly neglected. Over the past few years, key elements of the display have degraded into potential safety hazards and disappeared. The train and the fountains were big losses, but for me the turning point was the year the light show lost the beautifully gaudy and mesmerizing magic Christmas tree. What a tree. It stood half the height of the light board and turned every color imaginable, providing the focal point of each number, from the Nutcracker to Frosty to Rudi on drums.
The other part of the annual ritual is a trip to nearby Ludwig’s Garden, where we drink beer, eat heavy German food, and complain about the light show. And even though we complain about the light show, we’ll keep going. And when the light show finally dies, we’ll keep going. Because however fun the glitz is, the tradition is ultimately about the laughing and the friends and the holiday.