Sounds of the Season: Caroling

Abigail Adams Smith Museum, 421 East 61st Street, (between First and York Avenue), (212) 838-6878, recalls the 1830s when the house was the Mount Vernon hotel, a country escape. In December, the house is decorated for the holidays, and on a couple of evenings, it's candlelit with musicians playing carols and traditional melodies on period instruments. Refreshments are served. Tickets required.

Stop by the beautiful Grace Church, 802 Broadway (at 10th Street), (212) 254-2000, on Christmas Eve for a service of Lessons and Carols featuring the Choir of Men and Boys and the St. Cecilia's Choir. Donation... Or join the Grace Church carolers on an evening stroll through the East Village, where they have been known to step into K-Mart, bringing the shoppers to attention.

Love carols, but not so sure of your singing? Take a walk with composer Phil Kline and his battery-operated caroling party. Mr. Kline composes a new Christmas piece each year, a kind of "musical collage" of synthesized music, human voices, and instrumentation with recognizable carols threaded in. He records it in 60 or so parts which are put into 60 boom boxes that are carried by as many participants. The electronic carolers string out for a block or two walking from Washington Square Park to Thompson Square Park. Mr. Kline says "it's like draping the city with several yards of sound." To be a carrier or a walking listener, call (212) 227-6255. Free. On December 19, meet at 6-45 pm at the arch in Washington Square.

St. Bartholomew's Church, Park Avenue and 50th Street, (212) 378-0027, is candlelit for their Joyous Christmas Concert. It features carols and choral works sung by the American Boy's Choir (James Litton, conductor) with the St. Bartholomew's choir. Organist William Trafka accompanies on the largest pipe organ in the city. Tickets required... A free carol sing-along takes place during lunchtime the week before Christmas.

At South Street Seaport, The Chorus Tree is a popular seasonal attraction. The St. Cecilia's Choir sings Christmas and Hanukah songs. Santa makes an appearance to the delight of the children. The two daily performances begin the Friday after Thanksgiving and continue until New Year's Day. (212) 732-7678. Free. At 5pm on Christmas Eve, sing carols in Washington Square Park, usually to a brass band accompaniment. Free.

Join the West Village Chorale on their caroling walk. Meet at the St. Luke-in-the-Fields Church, 487 Hudson Street (between Barrow & Grove), where you pick up sheet music and candles, then divide into groups of 20 and take various paths through the West Village. (212) 570-7301.

The Festival of Lights

Hanukkah, one of the seven major Jewish holidays, is celebrated for the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian Greeks around 165 B.C. The Temple of Jerusalem was reconsecrated and the miracle of a day's worth of oil burning for eight is commemorated with the lighting of the candles of the menorah.


Temple Ansche Chesed, 251 West 100th Street (between Broadway & Amsterdam), (212) 865-0600, spreads their celebrations out over the eight days of Hanukkah. The Hanukkah Arts Festival, the first Judaic fine arts program in New York City, takes place on December 5 and 6. It hosts 40 vendors from the U.S. and other countries selling Judaica. There are storytellers, singers and a puppet/magic show to entertain the children. Folksinger Debbie Friedman will perform Jewish songs during a Hanukkah Service of Healing on December 2. Tickets required. There's also a family dinner at which latkes, apple sauce, and susganiot, a jelly doughnut, are served.

The 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue (between 92nd and 93rd Streets), (212) 996-1100, provides babysitting for the youngest family members so no one has to miss their master storyteller, Peninnah Schram, when she relates the story of this holiday of liberation. Tickets required... A Hanukkah Family Workshop includes singing and dancing, a presentation of the story of the holiday, and menorah and dreidel-making. Registration required... Jewish books and tapes, games, candles, and chocolate coins are among the items for sale at the Y Hanukkah Gift Shop, set up about two weeks before the start of the holiday. (212) 415-5453.

The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue (at 92nd Street), (212) 423-3230, has special family holiday programming. Tickets required. Their gift shop carries a wide array of menorahs, dreidels, candles, Hanukkah-related books, tapes and CDs, and many items for children.

There is a large Menorah at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue in front of the Plaza hotel. A lighting ceremony takes place each evening of Hannukkah, featuring local choral groups and traditional choral food.

Hanukkah cooking classes are given by Gil Marks and Levana Kirschenbaum at Lincoln Square Synagogue, 200 Amsterdam Avenue (at 69th Street), (212) 874-6100. They also host a menorah-lighting ceremony at Verdi Square (72nd Street on Broadway) each night of Hanukkah, featuring local choral groups and traditional food.

The Jewish Lower East Side is the site for the Big Onion Walking Tour on December 25. Several hundred people turn out to see, among other things, the interior of the landmarked Eldridge Street Synagogue. (212) 439-1090.

Artist designed menorahs, some one-of-a-kind, as well as dreidels and other items, are found at Brenda Bernstein's lovely shop, In the Spirit, (212) 861-5222, by appointment... Look for more dreidels and menorahs at Feller's Judaica Gift Gallery, 1205 Lexington Avenue (between 81st and 82nd Streets), (212) 472-2300, and Central Judaica in the Central Synagogue, 123 East 55th Street (between Park and Lexington Avenues), (212) 838-5122.

Reprinted with permission from the book, "New York's 350 Best Places to Celebrate the Holiday Season" (City & Company).