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Saturday, December 21, 2013

More Holiday Ranting

I remember when I was little and I would watch Miracle on 34th Street every year. I've watched all the incarnations and none are as good as the version with the adorable Natalie Wood, the beautiful Maureen O'Hara, the handsome John Payne, and the quintessential Kris Kringle . . . Edmund Gwenn.

I grew up believing that Macy's was the best! After all, it had the only Thanksgiving parade worth watching. (It was the only one network television showed!) They had fabulous balloons and the Rockettes. 

Macy's was the store with a heart and the true spirit of Christmas.

On my very first trip to the city, as a young adult, I made a special point of going to Macy's and purchasing important items there. After all, it was the miracle store and a landmark.

I had innocently kept this view of Macy's well into adulthood. 

In Boston we had our own landmark store, Jordan Marsh, which was actually older than Macy's. 

Every year my grandmother would dress me in my best party dress. We would get on the bus in front of our house and go to Newton Corner, transfer to a trolley that would take us to Kenmore Square, go below the surface to the subway, and take the subway to downtown Boston. I shivered in delight at the thought of going into the city to see Santa Claus. It was a major undertaking for an elderly woman and a shy little girl.

Jordan Marsh also had a Christmas tradition which began in the 1940s. It was an Enchanted Village. It occupied an entire floor and people would come from all over to stand in line to see the village and end their pilgrimage with a visit with Santa and a photo. Then they would shop. You couldn't go to Jordan Marsh and not shop, and then end the day in their bakery with a fabulous blueberry muffin and a hot chocolate!

The Enchanted Village was an incredible draw, until for some reason, Jordan Marsh did away with it in the 1970s. 

It was revived again in the 1990s and masses of people once again stood in long lines to view the Village and to purchase gifts they could just have easily obtained at their local mall.

Then in 1998 the dastardly Macy's took over the iconic Jordan Marsh and said, "There will be no more Enchanted Village, we want to use the space for offices."

People were devastated. Why would the legendary purveyors of Christmas, the store that was made famous by the best of all Christmas movies, Miracle on 34th Street, why would they want to destroy a Boston Christmas tradition. 

What would they do next? Replace Santa in the parade with a robot?

I may be too sensitive, but I have not been able to watch the parade nor the movie since.

After the demise of the Village in the department store, it was moved to City Hall Plaza and the city sponsored it until they decided it was something they could no longer handle and sold the Village at auction on June 16, 2009. At that time it was bought by Jordan's Furniture (no relations to Jordan Marsh - it is a unit of Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway and still operated with one of the original owners guiding the business) and moved to their Avon store.

Now when I go to visit the Village and see Santa I am tempted to buy a new desk or living room suite instead of a porcelain doll or a cashmere sweater.

It may be unreasonable, but I still blame Macy's for killing a local tradition. They could have found another space for their offices!

What holiday traditions in your area have been destroyed in the name of profit?


  1. How awful :( And we wonder why today's children don't believe in magic..

    1. There are too many people ready to tell the children that there is no such thing. Like Maureen O'Hara's character in Miracle on 34th Street taught her daughter that there were no fairy tale endings and that Kris was just a nice man with a white beard who could speak Dutch.

      I stopped liking Jamie Lee Curtis when she sat on the couch on the Rosie show and announced how proud she was of her daughter for not believing in Santa. Rosie was on in the late afternoon and was a kid friendly show.

      It's fine if you don't want to share the joy of a child as she waits for the Tooth Fairie or as he sets traps for Santa, but don't announce what you believe in front of others kids.

      I would much rather watch a child's eyes sparkle with wonder when they see the presents under the tree after Santa has come, then have that child make avaricious demands of the parent.

  2. Ohhhh :'( So I too grew up with the notion that Macy's was this magical place, the parade (although there are now others on TV) is still one of my favorite things to watch. I remember in high school, sending in our Marching band videos every year hoping and praying that this year would be the year that we were selected to participate. Ironically in my senior year of high school, we were chosen, expect 3 months earlier, my mother had moved our family across the country from Ohio to South Dakota so I did not get to participate :'(

    I am so sorry that Macy's did away with what has long been a tradition for you and your family, but thankfully they were willing to sell the village (instead of throwing it into storage or destroying it and sending it to the dump) so that other shops could reinstate it as a tradition. While I am traditionally against big box stores and their notorious corporate greed, Macy's still does a great deal of good for the communities in which they are located. For years working at Head Start, they donated hundreds of Christmas gifts and food baskets to the families in our program. They would send out the most authentic looking Santa I have ever seen to deliver the presents. Now mind you, these weren't generic "barbie for a boy, ball for a boy" gifts, they would ask us to have the children write letters to Santa (or with the younger ones, tell the teachers what to write) and they would do their best to bring each child a gift off of their wish list. Oftentimes, this was the only gift some of these children received for Christmas. For many years, this was the highlight of the holidays for us, the staff. We would hold door decorating contests for the classrooms, bake up hundreds of cookies for Santa and the volunteers that would come with him that day and prepare for the squeals of joy and delight as Santa made his way through the building. It was an amazing time! Until two years ago...when a parent threatened to sue our program because we were infringing on her religious freedoms by "forcing Christmas down her throat" (HELLO HEAD START IS A VOLUNTARY PROGRAM!!! NO ONE IS FORCING YOU TO PUT YOUR CHILD IN IT!) We thought our Christmas tradition was going to be destroyed...however, Macy's employees worked with our agency to find a solution that fit. So now, each year signs are posted and families are given the opportunity to sign up for "Christmas help" and every family that signs up, receives gifts and food for the entire family. While we no longer get to see Santa passing out gifts and joy alighting on the faces of hundreds of children, I know that there are dozens of families whose Christmases are made by Macy's.

    I do hope my story restores some of your faith in the corporate monster that stole away your holiday memories, for me Macy's is so much more than a parade and a Miracle on 34th Street. For me, Macy's is Christmas, it's the joy in a child's face, it's the ham on a Christmas table, and it's the relief in a mother's face when she realizes that Christmas will be Christmas after all.

  3. I am glad Macy's has been good to your Head Start. For our program it was a local man who made Christmas happen for the poor kids.

    It is nice to hear that the store does do good works for those in need.

    I would like to think all the bad publicity Macy's received had nothing to do with the way they disposed of the village. I would rather think that there was a spark of Christmas in their hearts when they sold the pieces to the city.

    However, it still doesn't sit well that a store that became famous through a movie for Christmas would stomp all over a Boston tradition.