A city’s tradition that endures after 50 years.
It was as much about the journey as it was the show: dressing up, the train ride into the city, a special lunch, and the wide-eyed “wow” when you entered the bustling central courtyard of John Wanamaker, decked out in reds and golds. You sat cross-legged on the cold stone floor, the lights dimmed, the Magic Christmas Tree gleamed, and John Facenda enunciated a 15-minute mini-Christmas spectacular in which Frosty, Rudolph and Santa danced in flickering lights on a four-story drape to classic carols piped from the enormous organ. It began in 1956. More than 50 years later, Wanamaker’s is now Macy’s, but the Light Show’s charm remains. Maybe because it slows us down a bit, because it connects us to our city’s traditions and to each other. But mostly because, like A Charlie Brown Christmas, it’s a reminder that some magic endures.
Originally published in Philadelphia Magazine, December 2007