NYC’s 6 Best Offbeat Holiday Celebrations

December 14, 2012 6:00 AM

(credit: Garrett Ziegler)

In addition to visiting the tree at Rockefeller Center and watching the Rockettes kick, you might want to check out these decidedly more offbeat ways to celebrate the holidays in New York City. By Jessica Allen.

More: NYC’s 8 Best Christmas Cookies

(credit: Unsilent Night)

(credit: Unsilent Night)

Unsilent Night

The Arch at Washington Square Park
Fifth Avenue and Washington Square North
New York, NY 10011
(212) NEW–YORK

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A 45-minute coordinated celebration of redemption, happiness, and the spirit of the season, Unsilent Night began in 1992 when Phil Kline handed out tapes of an original, four-track composition to be played on multiple boomboxes as participants walked along New York City streets. Twenty years later, Unsilent Night has taken place in more than 50 cities on four continents. On Saturday, December 15, at 7 pm, the procession begins under the Arch in Washington Square Park and marches, musically, to Tompkins Square Park. Download the music ahead of time or try the free smartphone app (because who has a boombox anymore?).

its a wonderful life NYCs 6 Best Offbeat Holiday Celebrations

Each year IFC Center shows “It’s a Wonderful Life” on the big screen—and Mary Owen, Donna Reed’s daughter, usually stops by to chat before or after a few screenings of her mom’s most famous movie. See her this year from Tuesday, December 18, to Thursday, December 20, and learn the truth behind the telephone scene, hear little-known facts about Donna’s facility with farm animals, and watch one of the greatest, and saddest, of all holiday movies.

(credit: Garrett Ziegler)

(credit: Garrett Ziegler)

Presents to the Animals

Prospect Park Zoo
450 Flatbush Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225
(718) 399-7339

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Life in a zoo has its advantages—safety, regular meals, preservation of the species, toys—but it can also be kind of boring. Every Saturday and Sunday in December the folks at Prospect Park Zoo liven things up by giving presents to the animals at 11 am and 3 pm. These wrapped boxes contain goodies like fruits, nuts, stems, and veggies, and the animals go adorably crazy for the kindness and wrapping paper.

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Church of the Intercession
550 West 155th Street
New York, NY 10032
(212) 283-6200

On December 23 at 4 pm, New York news anchor Pat Battle will read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” (aka “A Visit From St. Nicholas”) to a rapt audience of kids and adults at the Church of the Intercession. After that, everyone can grab a candle and walk to Clement Clarke Moore’s tomb at Trinity Church Cemetery across the street. The event concludes with Christmas carols and treats. One of the oldest ongoing traditions in New York City, the very first reading of the poem took place in 1911.

(credit: Arsenal Gallery/Materials for the Arts)

(credit: Arsenal Gallery/Materials for the Arts)

Wreath Interpretations

The Arsenal at Central Park
64th Street and 5th Avenue, 3rd floor
New York, NY 10022
(212) 360-8163

The 30th annual exhibition of unconventional wreaths held by the New York City Parks & Recreation Department features 43 eclectic interpretations this year. Some use bicycle parts and nut shells, others rely on Chinese food to-go boxes, found objects, glitter, and ribbons. Themes include new takes on traditional techniques and the effects of Hurricane Sandy. The exhibit is open Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, and will stay up through January 10, 2013.

(credit: Garrett Ziegler)

(credit: Garrett Ziegler)

Origami Holiday Tree

American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024
(212) 769-5100

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Volunteers begin folding in July so that their creative, intricate origami will be ready to adorn the 13-foot evergreen at the American Museum of Natural History come late November. This year the theme of the Origami Holiday Tree is Museum Collections, so the 500 ornaments were inspired by AMNH’s permanent halls and exhibitions and include giraffes, owls, zebras, bacteria, and jellyfish. There are many trees put up around New York City, some bigger, some more lavishly decorated. But none so warms our hearts and ushers in the holidays as this one, on view through January 6, 2013.

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