I Remember When…

I remember when department stores would decorate their windows for Christmas…not to sell the latest fashion or piece of jewelry…but to remind children of the magic of Christmas.  Yeah – I’m that old 🙂

They don’t do that anymore in Columbus, Ohio.  Do they do that in your town?

NYC LibraryRecently I was in New York City, the marketing mecca of the east coast, and was thrilled to discover that some stores still carry on that tradition.  Even though I was there in the middle of November – a whole two weeks past Halloween which has become the equivalent of cutting the starting line for holiday decorating –  some of the windows were still covered.  But a few were open to the public.  You might notice a theme. 🙂

Now that I’m back home, I wish I’d taken pictures  all of the windows 🙂 but at the time I just took this one of the library at Macy’s.  The ladder moved from side to side and the kids heads moved.IMG_1212


The next one comes from Lord and Taylor – lots of movement here though you can’t tell from the picture.  I gather the mice are doing some decorating.  The evergreen swag in the center of the picture twirled around in a circle L&T micecarrying the mice along for the ride.  The pages in the books in the top right corner and also on the left (not sure that one showed up in this pic) flipped through the pages.  The little swordfish on the upper left would pop out occasionally.  Fun window.  One problem with photographing windows is that you get some of the reflection of the background in the shot.  You can see a couple of street vendor umbrellas (hot dogs!) and some of the building across the street.


This is also from Lord and Taylor.  No movement.  Just one window in a series about cardinals 🙂  I like the “Silent Night” quality.L&Tcardinals


L&TballerinasFinally, thought I’d include this window from Lord and Taylor.  The ballerinas dashed up and floated down.  It was a smaller window than the others but fun.

As we walked around the city, I saw several stores had decorated the entire outside of their building.  Wreaths hung in every window, or each window was outlined with lights and topped with a lighted bow – making each window look like a gift.

I happened to bump into Victoria Alexander while in NYC  and now have an autographed copy of her latest, The Shocking Secret of a Guest at the Wedding, which I’m happy to send to someone leaving a comment.  So, tell me, do the stores decorate in a non-comercial way in your neck of the woods?  If not, what’s your favorite decoration this time of year.  I’m ready for some Christmas magic!


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  • Jane says:

    Hello Donna,
    Yes, many of the big department store do put up Christmas windows including Bloomingdale’s, Saks and Bergdorf Goodman. It’s nice to take a walk in the city just to look at all the festive decorations.

    • Hi Jane!

      It really was lovely to just walk around Manhattan. I was truly surprised by the decorations on the buildings themselves. I’m afraid there’s nothing like it in the Midwest…maybe Chicago…but not Columbus. I wish all the windows were available for viewing but they were due for an unveiling after we left.

    • Hey – and now you have a walking partner in the Golden Rooster. I hope he packs his winter attire, though. It’s getting pretty cold these days.

  • Amy Conley says:

    Hello Donna, what I wouldn’t give to see those windows up close. Your pictures make them look great, so personally being able to see them would be great.

    I live in a very small town and the only place with a xecorated window would be the pharmacy. And I would say it is half and half. You can’t promote ghe drugs, but they also have a few gift type items.

    • Hi Amy –

      That’s what surprised me. We know the sort of merchandise that Macy carries – yet you didn’t see a single it that you’d typically purchase in the store. It was more about entertainment than merchandising.

  • Sally Schmidt says:

    It was always fun to make a special trip to the City and see the holiday windows. A few years ago while driving down a main road in my town with your typical suburban shopping centers and strip malls I discovered that one of those strip malls had a window in the back of each store and every window was decorated. A nice surprise and I check every year now to see them.

    • Hi Sally –

      In the back of the store? Wow – I’d never think to look there. What a cool discovery!

      To be honest, every trip I’ve ever made to NYC has been connected to RWA conferences which, of course, are in July. I’d love someday to go in early December to see all the decorations. I’ll put that on my bucket list 🙂

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Sally, that’s really cool…kinda like a secret Santa gift! :>

  • bn100 says:

    some do

  • Mary Preston says:

    The big department stores have beautiful displays.

    The best store windows around here are actually at the local pharmacy. The displays are just delightful & they change them often, so new displays go up all the time.

    • Hi Mary –

      That’s cool! Here, for the most part, the big department stores don’t have outside windows looking out on a mall parking lot. They have “inside the mall” windows, but those are primarily filled with mannequins modeling the newest fashions. The big pharmacies – same thing. Only the smaller, more personal, and independent pharmacies would be able to have a Christmas window.

      Chalk that up as a blessing for your location 🙂

  • Shannon says:

    It’s been a while since I was in a city with a downtown. My metro area has mainly malls, and I cannot remember outside windows.

    Mcy’s has a stand-alone store at Metro. It used to do Christmas windows, but I haven’t been down there. I usually make the trip for post-Christmas sales. That store has the best selection of business suits.

    • Hi Shannon –

      That’s so true! Those big malls which are so convenient for shopping many stores on one trip in an indoor environment – killed the holiday windows tradition. Before Macy’s, we had Lazarus here. Lazarus had a big store downtown and decorated it’s outside windows every year. Then it was connected to a big shopping mall which eventually was torn down – taking the Lazarus store with it. Sometimes progress really isn’t.

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    When I was growing up my parents took my brother and I to Indianapolis every year to see Santa. We would have lunch in the tea room at L. S. Ayres where I would have the princess dessert. It was an actual cake where the gown was the cake itself and an actual doll was inside. Then we would ride a miniature train around the “North Pole” (decorated to look like it of course), then sit on Santa’s lap and have our picture taken. Afterwards we ate dinner at a Big Boy restaurant then walked around looking at the Windows at Block’s ( another big department store). Every one was animated. One would have elves building toys, another a family seated at a table while the mom carried a big turkey, another showed kids gathered around a tree opening presents. They all moved and the settings were unbelievable. It was magical to my brother and I. At the end of the evening we’d hit this little candy shop where my mom would buy fudge and divinity and I’d get a red and green colored popcorn ball. It was truly enchanting and something I wish my kids and grandkids could have experienced themselves.

    • Hi Debbie!

      Those memories are the best!

      I have a black & white photo of my brother and I with Santa Claus and another black & white photo of my husband with Santa. Funny how both my husband and I had the same “Santa” experience. I don’t recall seeing the decorated windows till I was a bit older, but my husband has memories very similar to yours with dinner at a special restaurant that had prizes for the kids. Love the princess dessert 🙂 Wonder if they had something similar for the boys?

      Yes, I’m afraid the other way kids and grandkids will have a similar experience is if we all fly to New York and do the town. 🙂

  • pjpuppymom says:

    One of these years I’m going to visit NYC at Christmas just to see those windows. I’ve wanted to for years.

    When we were kids my parents would take us into Chicago to see the Christmas windows at big stores in the Loop like Marshall Field, Carson Pirie Scott and others. It was magical and one of the highlights of our holidays that we looked forward to every year.

    I’m not aware of any Christmas windows at stores where I now live. Most big stores here are in malls and don’t have those big display windows.

    • Hi PJ –

      Chicago would be a great place to see holiday windows. Is Marshall Fields still open?? I know the Marshall Fields here pulled out years ago.

      Wouldn’t it be neat if the smaller stores at the mall decorated their windows like these? If several did, people might return to the mall just to look at the windows. I’d like that. Right now I avoid the mall whenever possible. 🙂

  • sandyg265 says:

    When we were kids my grandmother worked at the Saks on Fifth Ave so we used to go in to see the windows and then go to the employee Christmas party.

    All of the department stores near me are in malls and I stay away from the malls this time of year so i don’t know how they decorate.

    • Hi Sandy!

      I try to avoid the malls myself, but I don’t think you’re missing much. 🙂

      Neat that you got to go to the Sak’s party. Those make for great memories for kids.

  • Heidi Howard says:

    We used to go downtown Pittsburgh to see the store displays and shop. It was magical. I don’t live near a city any more, so I don’t know if there even are downtown stores. I do miss that. Maybe someday I’ll go to NYC and take a stroll through town.

    • Hi Heidi!

      Interesting comment about not knowing if there are stores downtown. I hadn’t thought about it, but all the big stores are in malls in the suburbs now – not downtown. Times certainly have changed.

      LOL on you strolling along downtown in NYC. With your reputation of getting injured while traveling we’d have to alert emergency services :). But I’d love to do that as well. We’ll have to go together. 🙂

  • Heathercm2001 says:

    Stores don’t really do window displays around here, but after seeing your pictures, I wish they would. There is an old store about a half hour away in Sharon, PA that does a Santa Claus Lane display. It is tradition to go there, and walk through it every year. It is always wonderful. Two years ago, coming back from there, there was a window display at an Army/Navy store. They had Santa on a stretcher….kinda weird in my opinion. Lol

    Looks like your trip went very well!

    • Hi Heather!

      Santa on a stretcher, Oh My! Wonder whose idea that was?

      I wonder if they do fancy windows in Cleveland downtown stores. It’s a part of “progress” that I miss.

  • Patty L. says:

    We have a small “old” town square and they decorate but the rest of the area just wants your money.

  • Linda says:

    We have Christmas decorations everywhere! I love this time of the year

    • Hi Linda –

      I do too! Even though they don’t do the big holiday windows in the stores anymore, I love all the other decorations – even the places where Santa arrives. It’s a great time of year.

  • Rae Latte says:

    The stores have been decorated for weeks. However, there is nothing like the holiday decorations in NYC! I’ve been lucky enough to get there a few times. The lights, the sparkle and the music. Just a happy and festive place!

    • Hi Rae!

      How cool that you’ve been several times. I’m putting a seasonal trip to NYC, just to see the decorations, on my “to-do” list. It’s a great way to get in the spirit. I had great fun even though most of the windows were still covered. 🙂

  • Minna says:

    In the stores Christmas started already last month, but non-comercial decorations? I wish!

    • Hi Minna –

      Must admit the non-commercial displays are rare anymore, but that wasn’t always the case. One of these days, you’re have to come over to New York City in December and see for yourself. They really are wonderful.

  • Donna, love the photos. I’d love to be in NY for Christmas one year, although I have to say my dream Christmas would be Venice. I had a customer in a dress shop I worked in years ago who had done Christmas in Venice and it sounded absolutely magical. Christmas in London was fun too – they make a big deal of switching on the city lights and get someone famous to do it. The year I was there, it was Joan Collins – Dynasty was huge then. Yeah, we are talking about the dark ages! I can remember as a kid being taken into town every year to see the windows. Hardly worth the bus fare these days, sadly.

    • Christmas in Venice ! That would be wonderful (though Christmas in NYC would be much cheaper for us 🙂 ). I truly would love to see that. Heck, I’d just like to see Venice – just once 🙂 Christmas is London would be very cool as well, but I’d feel like I was walking in Dickens-ville. 🙂 I wonder who’ll flip the switch this year?

      • At St. Mark’s they still do the double choir and a procession around the square at midnight. I can imagine all those gold mosaics being absolutely wonderful in candlelight.

        I looked up who will flick the switch in London this year. Someone I”ve never heard of – Cheryl Fernandez Versini. Clearly I’m out of the groove!

  • Jeanne Adams says:

    What wonderful photos, Donna! And I love the Library Lions! Grins.

    I’ve seen the NY windows in the same manner you have – the sneak peak before Thanksgiving – but like you, I’ve put it on my bucket list to go back and see all of them in their full glory. I also want to go to the Tree Lighting in Rockefeller Square.

    I’ve been to the Tree Lighting in downtown DC and that is HUGE fun. The National Botanical Gardens has decorated trees and holiday train displays so that’s always fun. There ARE some downtown department stores still in DC and the Macy’s does do a window or two, but most are still the standard “Let us sell you THIS!” displays. :>

    I’d love to see the decorated windows make a comeback. As you said, if the stores inside the mall would do it, and not as a “BUY THIS” display, I’d actually make a trip TO the mall, which you can’t get me to do even with threat of dynamite, this time of year. Grins.

    • Hmmm Jeanne – as two like-minded individuals, I wonder who we we need to “whisper in the the ear” about the mall stores windows. I’d certainly make a trip to see them especially if I had kids in tow.

      I bet Washington DC does a great job on the Christmas festivities. All those white buildings are perfect for a wreath or two, or a nice bright red ribbon. I’ve never thought of it as a Christmas destination, but, seriously, it could be. 🙂

  • catslady says:

    Our dept. stores in downtown Pittsburgh such as Hornes (now Macy’s) always had their windows decorated but to be honest I never shop there anymore – parking is horrible and I’m not much of a driver and it’s so much easier to visit the local malls so I don’t know if they’ve kept up the old traditions. Our city just had it’s light up night celebration so I’m thinking the stores still go all out.

    • Hi Catslady!

      Yes – but the real question is – Do they decorate those trams that ride up the side of the mountain in Pittsburgh :). I wonder if the Macy’s stores all decorate their non-mall Macy stores with the same story windows? LOL That’s one way to get a deal on the decorations. Unfortunately, as all the Macy’s here are in mall locations, there’s no way for me to check. Oh well.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Great piccies, Donna! Our town and the surrounding ones still decorate the lamp posts for the holiday with lights and decorations. I like how festive it looks, reminding us of the holidays approaching.

    • Hi Jo –

      My little subdivision used to decorate the lamp posts with a wreath and ribbon. There weren’t many of us here but -By God – all the lamp posts which have an old-fashioned flair were decorated. Now the place is full, but no one bothers with the lamp posts (sniff, sniff) I always thought that was a cool tradition…but not cool enough for me to freeze my butt off putting up wreaths 🙂

  • I have not seen too many stores with Christmas themed decorations like the ones in NYC, but your blog reminded me of the great windows in what was my favorite NYC store- B Altman’s! They were animated and so creative. Loved shopping there at Christmas.

    • Hi Morgan –

      Unfortunately the NY based B Altman’s store closed in 1989 along with so many of the big free-standing retail stores across the nation. The B Altman Foundation still exists and is one of the biggest donors of charitable grants. So in a way B Altman’s is keeping the spirit of Christmas alive without the animation. But I would have loved to see their windows 🙂 You never really appreciate those things until they’re gone, do you.

  • Laurie G says:

    I haven’t been shopping since before Thanksgiving. I didn’t see any Christmas windows decorated yet.

    One thing I’ve seen in Florida is people put lights on their boats. The sailboats are really pretty. They even have a Festival of Lights boat parade in the Palm Beaches.

    • Hi Laurie!

      Lights on the boats out in the water sounds lovely. I have to say, I’ve been in Florida at December and it felt…odd. I’m afraid we didn’t see many boats where we were, but I love the idea of decorated boats. 🙂 Mostly we saw some lighted images stuck on a house and an occasional blow up santa. What we didn’t see were piles of snow and ice hanging from eaves. Yeah – I could live with that. 🙂

  • Becke says:

    Sadly, no. My family used to drive to STL every holiday to see the window displays in Stix, and Famous & Barr, both of which no longer in business. At that time the entire block of windows was filled with animated Christmas scenes. They also had Santa Land in Stix and you could walk through the magic area. We went every year, spent the night, shopped, and then drove the hour home.

    • Hi Becke!
      Interesting the number of stores that once had animated windows and are now out of business. I hope there’s no correlation! Actually, I suspect the demise of the department store is more the result of the exodus of shoppers to the suburbs, followed by competition from the internet. Sounds like you had a magical time.

  • Barb Heintz says:

    I love your window shots, Donna. I’m from Cleveland, and they remind me of the displays on Public Square. We would stand in line to go past the windows at Higbee’s and May Co., then trek down to Halle’s to see Santa and Mr. Jingling. Across the street was the tallest indoor Christmas tree at Sterling Linder. Alas none these places are there any longer. But, the Horseshoe Casino has reprised the window displays. Yes, I miss that wonderful family tradition. Merry Christmas.

    • Hi Barb!

      Bummer! I was going to ask about Cleveland. As you know, I lived there for three or four years but I was older then and we never went downtown for the holidays. We’d more likely shop in Rocky River. Interesting that the casino has fancy windows. I wonder if the casino here does as well. Another place we don’t visit 🙂 Love that you got to experience the early years of public displays for Christmas. (And yes, I remember all those stores 🙂 )

  • Becke says:

    As requested by Jo. Merry Christmas

    Zucchini Crescent Pie
    4c zucchini, thinly sliced unpeeled
    1 onion, coarsely chopped
    ½ c butter
    ½ c parsley, shopped
    ¼ t oregano
    ½ t black pepper
    2 eggs, well beaten
    ¼ t garlic powder
    8 oz crescent rolls
    ¼ t sweet basil
    8 oz mozzarella, shredded
    2 t prepared mustard
    ½ t salt
    Directions: Cook zucchini & onion in butter till tender (~10”). Stir in parsley & seasonings. In lge bowl, blend eggs and cheese. Stir in veggie mixture. Separate rolls into 8 triangles. Place in 11” ungreased quiche pan, 10” pie pan, or 12×8 baking dish. Press into bottom & sides. Spread dough w/ mustard, & then fill. 350°, 18-20”. Stand 10” serves 6 .

  • I live in a really small town, but the little shops downtown do decorate their windows. Not much animated, but some really clever themes. The best used to be the bookstore, which closed a few years ago. Tammy really put a lot of effort into her store windows, especially at Christmas. The town does decorate – lots of wreaths and lights and figures on lampposts. And every year there is a parade on the river. It is called Christmas on the Coosa. Different organizations make floats on boats and cruise, all lit up, down the river at night. Santa Claus closes the parade with his arrival on water skis and the kids line up at the pier to sit on his lap and have photos made.

    There is also a live moving nativity that progresses through town to end on the courthouse square. So far the ACLU hasn’t protested, but you never know. Sigh.

    • Hey Louisa!

      You know you won the prize for my Nov. 23rd post, don’t you (Turkey Pardon). Sent me a note through my website and we’ll talk.

      Love the Christmas parade on the water. Laurie G says that they do something similar in Florida. LOL at Santa on water skis. Do they put a red nose on the boat pulling him. 🙂 Different places, different celebrations – it’s one of the neat things of the holidays.

  • Deb says:

    Hi, Donna. Oh, yes! I remember Armstrong’s, a department store in downtown Cedar Rapids, and all the wonderful window displays. The store was huge and took up an entire city block and was several stories high. It was THE department store to shop when you needed a fancy dress. It was the true department store of the 40s and 50s. It was so sad when it closed several years ago.

    My little town’s businesses and shops do decorate their windows and have beautiful displays. One lawyer’s office has two big bay windows with a very large Nativity in one and a lit Christmas tree in the other. The flower shop, of course, has two pretty displays in its windows. (The owner makes good use of her ceiling by hanging a tree upside down as well as hanging items from a ladder hung horizontally from the ceiling.) The appliance store has a cute scene of an open oven door and a pan of cookies inside and a snowman and snowwoman standing nearby. The pharmacy has a nice little tree in the window. Several of the hair shops have lights around their windows.

    Best of all, our downtown has old-fashioned street lights and garlands of evergreens and lights adorn the poles. Beautiful!

    • Deb –

      Sounds lovely. In fact, it sounds a lot like my little town, Westerville. Lots of pine boughs, red bows, and lights on every tree.

      So sad that the department store closed in Cedar Rapids but so many have in the last 20 years. I wonder what shopping will be like in the next 20 years – probably all internet. It’s a shame as there is something to be said for handling the merchandise.

  • Donna, I love these pictures! I went to NYC once, and it was like Christmas Wonderland. On our recent trip to another city, I took many photos of holiday decorations.

    Alas, but all our department stores are in malls now and thus have no display windows. :-/

    One of the highlights of my London trip last year was when Anna S. took me by one of the big stores on Oxford Street (Selfridge’s, I think) to see their gingerbread London in the window. It was fabulous!

    • Welcome Home, Nancy!

      Gingerbread London – Holy cow, Batman! I wonder who got to consume all that after the holidays, or was it shellacked to use year after year. No treat for the weak. (weak as in no willpower. That would be me 🙂 ) Can’t wait to see your holiday pics, you world traveler, you.

  • Rachann Mayer says:

    I recall similar memories of Indianapolis Christmas on the square as Debbie O. The L.S. Ayres Tea Room was such a treat. We drove an hour to get downtown….. in our dress coats and good gloves…..our highlight was riding the escalators in Blocks department store.

    Here in Frederick MD….the historic house tours and plantation teas are wonderful…some even in costume.

    • Hi Rachann!

      Good gloves – man, you’re taking me back! 🙂 Speaking of escalators, when we were in the NYC Macy’s, my dh and I took the escalators looking for a place to eat lunch – and they were the old wooden escalators. Not the slick numbers you’d find in more modern stores.

      I’m originally from Maryland and have driven through Frederick, though I’ve never really visited there. I never thought of it as a place of plantation teas. Historic houses – yes, but not plantations – but it makes perfect sense! Thanks for the reminder of my historic roots.

  • Sharon R. Cowan says:

    We don’t really have mamy big department stores in Conroe. In Houston some of the big stores decorate but mostly with things to buy. The one store that decorated with the older themed windows like you pictured has closed. I enjoyed your pictures.

    • Thanks Sharon –

      Isn’t it a shame that so many stores with the big windows have gone…and the rest do boring merchandising windows. It’s the same-old, same-old window with a santa hat on the mannequins. Sigh. It’s like the passing of an era.

  • Barbara Elness says:

    I haven’t seen any non-commercial decorating, but then I tend to stay away from shopping malls, etc. this time of year. Actually, there isn’t much decorating of windows that I can recall here in Central Florida, but the theme parks have lovely decorations. 😀

    • Theme Parks! well, that sort of makes up for the lack of animation in store windows, but you have to pay to see the decorations at the theme parks. LOL – in the spirit of promotion and good will, they should build major exhibitions someplace in the public sector – just so everyone can have that spirit of Christmas.

      I should put a theme park at Christmas on my bucket list. LOL.

  • Janie McGaugh says:

    We only have one store (a large furniture store) that decorates their windows this way.