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OK, so you may not experience a life-changing encounter with old Kris Kringle himself, but you will certainly get into the spirit of Christmas if you go to the Big Apple anytime between Thanksgiving and December 25. Anyone who thinks that the lights in London are a bit over the top should go to see New York lights. They go all out for Christmas, and then some. Reluctant yule-tiders, and anti-festivity Scrooges need to be immersed in it all. If this doesn't cure them, nothing will.

It all stems from the famous department store, Macy's, the first retailer to ever come up with the bright idea of having an in-store Santa. That was back in 1862. The classic movie, "Miracle on 34th Street" tells the story of one such "real" Santa whom nobody believed. He is saved by the faith of a little girl and the American judiciary system and the whole city turns out his triumphal returns to the skies. Macy's still kicks off the festive season with its enormous, elaborate Thanksgiving Parade.

There are four must see Christmas attractions that have all taken their respective places in various movies ever since. The Rockettes at the Radio City Music Hall is essential. So is skating at the Rockefeller Centre. The Christmas tree here is a giant but the one that draws the most crowds, is the tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And the fourth, why Macy's Santaland of course.

Which brings us back to the main event in town; The shopping and there's no pretence that Christmas isn't one big fantastical spendathon of rampant commercialism here. The window displays might draw the crowds, but it's the insides of the emporiums that overflow with enthusiastic spenders. Some say, that New Yorkers consider serious shopping an art form in itself. If the 11 floors of merchandise in Macy's seems a bit overwhelming, you can always book a personal shopper for the day, to guide you through. This is not just for the super-rich, they cater to every budget.

When you're all shopped out and can't carry any more, it's time for cocktails. Where else but the legendary Algonquin, and what else should you order, but Manhattans? They might not make you as witty as Dorothy Parker, famed doyenne of the hotel, but they will certainly help ward off the winter chills. With carols on every corner, roast chestnut vendors by the dozen and all these Christmas delights, if New York does not put you in the festive spirits, nothing ever will.

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