Maspeth living room is transformed into a Thanksgiving
dining room that can seat visiting family. Tribune
photo By Brian M. Rafferty
Borough Rich In Holiday Heritage
From the classic telling of Santa's cheery cheeks
to the MC walking his dog in the park, Queens
has always had a connection to the winter holidays.
Take a gander at how some of the borough's luminaries
are connected to the holidays - as well as how
some regular folks just choose to celebrate the
Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong
The jazz legend and International Ambassador of
Goodwill lived in Corona and is buried in Flushing
Cemetery, where a brass trumpet sits atop his
Armstrong loved kids, and described Christmas
as the "Children's Holiday."
"Christmas Through The Years" is just one of several
compilations of Satchmo's Christmas music. Released
in 1996, it includes the classic "Zat You Santa
Claus," "Baby Its Cold Outside" and more.
For information on Satchmo's holiday recordings
(both the classics and collectors items), go to
amazon.com, or log on to louisarmstrong.com
For one day each year in the weeks before Christmas,
LaGuardia Airport turns into a wonderland filled
with Santa's reindeer, toy soldiers, elves - and
the big guy himself, Santa, as past and present
airport and airline employees take young patients
from Schneider Children's Hospital and the North
Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System on a "Fantasy
Flight" to the North Pole.
Toy soldiers present each of the children on the
flight with a warm hat, to make sure they have
the right equipment for the trip to the frosty
tip of the world. Even Rudolph climbs on board
to join the youngsters - his antlers swaying to
Christmas Carols, as the pilots rev the engines
Even though the flight never leaves the ground,
the kids are ecstatic when the doors open, and
Santa meets them at the "gate" to the North Pole
- inside the airport terminal. Waiting with Santa
are reindeer, clowns, musicians, carolers - and
Mrs. Claus, always a favorite of kids on the Fantasy
Flight. And in keeping with a true kid's fantasy,
there are piles of pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers,
Christmas cookies and brightly decorated holiday
This year's flight will be Dec. 1.
He may have left his heart in San Francisco, but
he is born and bred in Astoria. For the best assortment
of Holiday classics by the Queens crooner, go
to amazon.com, check with collectors and sellers
at local flea markets, or log on to Tony Bennett.com.
"Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album" contains
such standards as "White Christmas," "Winter Wonderland"
and "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," all done
in Tony's drop-dead-smooth style. Just check out
one review from amazon.com:
"Talk about smooth! Tony Bennett is the very definition
of the word. Snowfall practically renders every
other version of the songs included here null
and void. Even 'White Christmas' sounds better
in Tony's hands than it did in Bing's."
From 90th Street in Richmond Hill, to the tree-lined
streets of Queens Village and Tudors in Jackson
Heights, Queens is alive with thousands of sparkling
lights, animated scenes and majestic live, lighted
and decorated Christmas trees.
Take a ride this holiday season throughout the
neighborhoods in Queens, to experience for yourself,
the traditions in holiday decorating that make
the borough sparkle. Want to know where the best
Check out Mike Giglio's place, at 100-21 90th
Ave. in Richmond Hill. With more than 90,000 lights
and new additions every year, he wins hands down
for the single biggest house display.
Watch out Empire State Building - you've got competition.
For the past two decades, the M&S Italian Food
Store on Francis Lewis Boulevard has recognized
a number of holidays throughout the year by decorating
their location, both inside and out, with displays
that catch the attention of many who pass by.
The family business is currently in its third
generation of owners with Joe Prestia in charge,
acting as the displays' architect, while manager
Jose Neri sets everything up and builds some of
the festive artwork bought by the store's cashier,
Neri said that although the store is decorated
the most for Christmas, every holiday has a theme.
Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving
and July 4th are other occasions that M&S celebrates
Every year during the Christmas holiday, a huge
blowup Santa Claus and reindeer mark the island
on Francis Lewis Boulevard and a large-scale turkey
blows steadily with the wind in front of the store
"People really seem to like it," said Prestia.
"One woman told us that when she drives by, all
her kids get excited just to see the decorations."
There are plenty of ways to get your hands on
some of your favorite holiday tunes. You could
pick up a holiday mix at a local music store,
or opt for a solo artist's rendition of timeless
classics like "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It
Snow!" and "The Little Drummer Boy." There's always
satellite radio where you can tune into the sleigh
bell tinged hits or with a simple click of your
mouse hear who will be home for Christmas on the
dozens of online radio stations.
But the best way to listen to holiday tunes is
to get out of the house and walk through the "Winter
Wonderland" known as Maspeth, as they line the
streets with twinkling lights and pump the tunes
for the Maspeth Holiday Lighting Program. After
a nice walk on a crisp day in Maspeth it's certain
you will "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."
Ellis Parker Butler was standing under the mistletoe
and smiled, but no answering smile replied, for
her haughty glance bid him plainly.
Butler, working from his home in Flushing, captured
the love in the hearts and yearning in the lips
of Christmas time lovers with his poem, "The Ballade
Of The Mistletoe Bough." Butler was the author
of more than 30 books and more than 2,000 stories
and essays, by every measure and by many times-the
most published author of the pulp fiction era,
as his work appeared alongside that of his contemporaries,
including Mark Twain and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
But in his poem he didn't get that which he prized;
instead, a look from her coldly scornful eyes.
"But look at those lips! Do they hint a smile?"
Ah, the hope of the holidays.
Very Special Christmas
What would later spawn a slew of follow-ups, the
first "A Very Special Christmas" CD was released
in 1990 to raise money for the Special Olympics.
Though the premiere edition had rockers like U2,
The Pretenders, Bon Jovi and more, there was one
Addidas-wearing trio from Queens who stole the
Run-DMC's "Christmas in Hollis" was the only original
song on the list, and to this day it is a favorite
on radio stations throughout the holiday season.
Christmas In Hollis
It was December 24th on Hollis Ave after dark
When I see a man chilling with his dog in the
I approached very slowly with my heart full of
Looked at his dog, oh my God, an illin' reindeer
But then I was illin' because the man had a beard
And a bag full of goodies, 12 o'clock had neared
So I turned my head a second and the man had gone
But he must have dropped his wallet smack down
on the lawn
I picket the wallet up then I took a pause
Took out the license and it cold said "Santa Claus"
A million dollars in it, cold hundreds of G's
Enough to buy a boat and matching car with ease
But I'd never steal from Santa, cause that ain't
So I was going home to mail it back to him that
But when I got home I bugged, cause under the
Was a letter from Santa and the dough's for me
It's Christmas time in Hollis, Queens
Mom's cooking chicken and collard greens
Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese
And Santa put gifts under Christmas trees
Decorate the house with lights at night
Snow's on the ground, snow white so bright
In the fireplace is the yule log
Beneath the mistletoe as we drink egg nog
The rhymes that you hear are the rhymes of Darryl's
But each and every year we bust Christmas carols
Rhymes so loud and proud you hear it
It's Christmas time and we got the spirit
Jack Frost chillin, the orchids out
And that's what Christmas is all about
The time is now, the place is here
And the whole wide world is filled with cheer
My name's D.M.C. with the mic in my hand
And I'm chilling and coolin' just like a snowman
So open your eyes, lend us an ear
We want to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Visit From St. Nick
Clement Moore is said to have written his famous
poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas," which is also
known by its first line, on a sleigh ride from
his homestead in Elmhurst to Greenwich Village,
where he was headed to buy his family's Christmas
turkey in 1822.
Moore said the famous poem was written as a Christmas
gift for his children. He originally wrote it
anonymously and it might have been left in obscurity
if a Moore relative had not sent the poem to a
newspaper upstate. The paper published the poem
with no name but when it became a perennial favorite,
Moore finally admitted authorship.
Moore's homestead can still be visited in Elmhurst
at the Clement Moore Homestead Park at 45th Avenue
A Visit From St. Nicholas
By Clement C. Moore
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them
Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On Cupid! On, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his
His eyes - how they twinkled! His dimples how
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his
And filled all the stockings; then turned with
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"
By Irving Berlin
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten,
And children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white
Born in Russia in 1888, Irving Berlin (Israel
Baline), arrived in the United States in 1893
and received his first music lesson from his father,
a Jewish Cantor.
Berlin, who lived in Queens, performed on New
York City streets until he penned his first songs
during World War II.
Irving Berlin wrote the score for the movie, "Holiday
Inn" in 1942, where Bing Crosby first introduced
the holiday classic, "White Christmas."
When shoveling the driveway is done and the streets
are plowed, it is time to throw on a heavy overcoat
and enjoy winter. Build a snowman in Flushing
Meadows, have a snowball fight at Kissena Park,
make snow angels in the schoolyard and sled down
hills at Forest Park.
There is something magical about wintertime that
other such seasons are hard pressed to follow
up with. Sweaters, hot chocolate, a burning fireplace
- staying inside could be just as fun as braving
the winter chill. But outside the streets of Queens
are a little less crowded, the roads are a little
less congested and the smells of the flavors of
the borough seem to waft through the air with
much more appeal. Who can resist the smell of
a plate of Tandoori chicken on a cold winter's