NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Record high temperatures made it feel more like May, or perhaps June, than Christmastime across the Tri-State area on Thursday.

In New York City, the mercury stood at 72 degrees at 4:30 p.m. in Central Park. The record of 63 degrees set in 1996 was easily smashed. Even as late as 11 p.m., it was 63 degrees.

The average temperature in December is just under 39 degrees.

CHECK: Weather

Forecasters said El Nino, the warming of the Pacific Ocean near the equator, is driving warm air eastward and keeping cold air from the Arctic at bay.

“We are going to shatter the records — records that go back well over a century,” New Jersey State Climatologist Dave Robinson correctly predicted earlier in the day to WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell.

The warm weather allowed many people to trade gloves and scarves for shorts and T-shirts and go jogging and golfing instead of skiing. On the Robert F. Kennedy Triborough Bridge, some drivers were even seen with the top down on their convertible.

And on Christmas Eve night in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn Thursday night, the ice cream truck was the hottest attraction at the annual Christmas Lights Extravaganza.

“Insane — it’s really insane,” said Raymond Kay of Dyker Heights. “I’m not even wearing a jacket; nobody’s wearing a jacket.”

But in southern Brooklyn, the holiday weather that seemed to have been imported straight from southern California did not seem to dampen the spirit of the season.

“Not in this neighborhood,” said Hugh Gallager of Dyker Heights, “because as you can see, we have many lights. It’s very festive.”

For the Pedernera family, a summer barbecue was on the docket. They fired up the grill on the back, nad they were roasting red meat rather than chestnuts.

“Got to enjoy it,” said Mario Pedernera. “Kids are running around in the backyard, having a lot of fun — it’s much better than being out here with the snowplow, that’s for sure.”

But while Santa on the skis looked lost in the grass, it was all worth it for many.

Earlier at the Bryant Park ice rink, the temperatures in excess of 70 degrees appeared to melt the ice – leaving crews to mop away the excess water. Some lightly-dressed skaters found themselves flipping and flopping about.

This was the warmest Dec. 24 ever in New York City, and Alice Hazen was determined to share it with her daughter, Marla.

“Oh my gosh, it’s incredible. Can’t beat this weather,” said Hazen, of the Upper West Side. “We’re trying to soak all it in before it drops another 40 degrees.”

Among the happiest people spotted Thursday was Noah Kagen, 16, who was able to play soccer outside. He had the whole field to himself.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Kagen, also of the Upper West Side. “It’s great to be able just to run around and not be freezing cold.”

The warmer weather also meant more Zamboni trips around the ice, according to rink manager Mike Schulman.

“It’s virtually impossible to keep the top part of the ice frozen,” Schulam told 1010 WINS’ Samantha Liebman. “We do have puddles, but again, the ice is solid underneath.”

Over on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, shoppers were taking advantage of the warm weather while getting some last-minute Italian goodies for Christmas.

“Oh yea, we’ve already been to Teital Brothers and got all the meat, the prosciutto, the mozzarella. We’ll go over, we’ll get the pasta, we do everything,” said Linda Mascetti.

Mascetti, of Lagrangeville, was standing on a long line for bread, but she wasn’t complaining.

“Unbelievable. And I’ll take every minute of it,” she said of the weather.

In fact, Lorenzo Derose, of Yonkers, was changing his Christmas plans.

“I love it. I’m ready to go to the beach,” he joked. “(Diamond: First Arthur Avenue and then Orchard Beach?) Yea, right. I wish.”

But he did say he might be cooking that holiday ham on the grill.

The record-setting temperatures also have residents flocking to area golf courses, Haskell reported.

“Who would have thought? We’ll take what we can get and anything after Nov. 15 is a win,” said Adam Hirsch.

Hirsch just finished up a round at the Byrne Golf Course in West Orange, New Jersey.

“It’s beautiful. I’m in short sleeves, there’s a guy out there in shorts,” he said.

Marty Kale also played a round.

“This is the best. December, Christmas (Eve) day, playing golf, I’m sweating,” said Kale.

But as CBS2’s Scott Rapoport reported, some people actually were not pleased at all.

“We’re not going to have a white Christmas this year,” said Mara Silverstein.

“Santa won’t be able to fly in on his sleigh,” said Jacob Silverstein.

Still, there were plenty of short-sleeve wearing, shorts-bearing lovers of the warmth who gave the temperatures Thursday the thumbs up.

Kevin King of Flatbush, Brooklyn was especially enthusiastic.

“I’m will just take my clothes off and just jump in the nearest pool I can find. That’s the way I feel,” he said. “The nearest pool — where is it? I’m ready to go.”

Hundreds of people wrapped up their warm weather Christmas Eve by gathering at Gramercy Park to take part in their annual holiday caroling celebration. 

One resident said the tradition started off as very small neighborhood event for people living by the park.

“It’s a time for caroling,” she said.

There is a downside to it all. The National Weather Service says the balmy weather is bringing winds, showers and even thunderstorms that could last through the weekend.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)