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Holiday Trees

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by Joann Jovinelly (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Ask anyone and they'll tell you that New York City looks best when dressed for the holidays. The temperatures might be dropping, but twinkling lights and the shimmering of seasonal decorations warms the spirit. This year, check out the annual gingerbread house display at Le Parker Meridien, the holiday train show at New York Botanical Garden, and the holiday window displays, but don't neglect a visit to some of New York City's most iconic and endearing holiday trees.

American Museum of Natural History Origami Tree
The tradition of creating origami ornaments for the American Museum of Natural History Museum goes back at least 30 years. The 2010 theme of the 13-foot tree is "Discovery" and it celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Rose Center For Earth and Space as well as the current exhibit, "Race To The End of the Earth." Volunteers from all over the world fold the 500 ornaments and send them to the museum beginning in November. A few will be on hand to teach youngsters the intricate techniques of paper folding while you enjoy the view.
Where: American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West (at 79th St.)
When: Mon.-Sun. 10AM-5:45PM

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Créche
This magnificent candlelit display is an absolute stunner that grows more exotic each year. The centerpiece 20-foot blue spruce is outfitted with a lavish collection of eighteenth-century Italian angles and cherubs and surrounded by figures from a traditional nativity scene. First presented in 1957, the crèche and ornaments are the collection of the late Loretta Hines Howard. Children will be in awe as suspended angels overlook the adoring shepherds and the flocks of sheep and other animals. Stop by in the afternoon or early evening to hear live period music.
Where: 1000 Fifth Ave. (at 82nd St.)
When: Tues.-Thurs. 9:30AM-5:30PM; Fri.-Sat. 9:30AM-9:00PM; Sun.9:30AM-5:30PM

The Rockefeller Center Holiday Tree
Some claim that the first Rockefeller Center Christmas tree went up at the building's construction site during the Great Depression and that it was decorated by strings of cranberries, paper garland, and tin cans brought by construction workers. No matter when the tradition began, it remains a seasonal favorite for young and old. The 2010 tree is a 74-feet tall Norway spruce decked out in 30,000 environmentally friendly LED lights and crowned with a Swarovski crystal star. Since crowds can easily number in the thousands, it is best viewed late at night.
Rockefeller Plaza (W. 48th-W. 51st between Fifth/Sixth Aves.)
When: 5:30AM-11:30PM, Daily

The Peace Tree at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Hundreds of paper "peace" cranes decorate the annual Christmas tree at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the beauty of which is surpassed only by the cathedral itself. Visitors are welcomed to join churchgoers for a number of festive holiday offerings, including choral concerts, readings, an advent procession and "Peace Tree" dedication, and performances of Handel's Messiah and Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols.
Where: 1047 Amsterdam Ave. (at 112th St.)
When: Mon.-Sat. 7AM-6PM; Sun. 7AM-7PM

The Chorus Tree at South Street Seaport
Head to Pier 17 to see the "Chorus" tree, the first holiday tree lit for the season. Known as much for its decorations as its performances, expect to drop in on ongoing choral concerts to get you and yours into the spirit of giving. This year's performances include musical numbers with vocalist Darlene Love, gags by members of the Big Apple Circus, and readings by actors from the Pace University production of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. If you come by with the kids, do so on a weekend to take advantage of 1:00PM story time with Santa. Photo ops abound!
Where: Pier 17 (Fulton and Water Sts.)
When: Mon.-Sat. 10AM-9PM; Sun. 10AM-7PM

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Why? To see the lights twinkle up close.
When: Varies
Where: Varies
Cost: Free
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