Heather Calvert’s love note to Macy’s Christmas Pageant of Lights

Heather Calvert
Favorite Spot: Macy’s Christmas Pageant of Lights
Neighborhood: Center City
Address: 1300 Market or Chestnut Streets

I am: Associate director of the Botswana-UPenn Partnership. I grew up in Europe but moved to Philly after college and never left and never will.
Current Home, Cedar Park, West Philly
Years in Philly: 21
(photo by Heather)

My Love Note:

Dear Macy’s Grand Court Christmas Pageant of Lights (or as I still call you Wanamaker’s Christmas Light Show),

I love you. In some ways my love is a cliché because everyone loves a great Philly tradition, right? But I love you nonetheless. I love your music. I love your Magic Christmas Tree. I love the carpet of kids that form on the floor in anticipation of you starting. I love the memories you have created for me. More than Mummers, certainly more than the creepy Dickens’ Christmas Village, more than the snowflake lights on Penn’s campus, the balls in Rittenhouse Square, or the light-decorated Green line trolleys, even more than the weirdly awesome light show at the Comcast Center. You are my favorite Philly holiday tradition.

It would seem that in such a gorgeous building, and with the glorious organ, and in the midst of the delicious Macy’s shoe department, it would be hard for you to draw the attention of anyone in that cacophony of sights and sounds; but as soon as your clock starts ticking signaling the pending start of your show, all eyes lock on you.

It’s hard to say which of your “characters” outlined in lights I like best. The little girl in me always likes the ballerinas en pointe, but I am also partial to the two Rudi bears with trumpets. It’s always exciting when the Santa Express train starts choo-chooing, but the swinging pendulum of the Cuckoo clocks might just be my favorite.  

I talked about my love for you often in my early twenties when going to see an old Christmas light show at a department store was so uncool. In fact talking about my love for you then was one of my most successful party quips. I accompanied it with my own rendition of the “Frosty Dance” — a bent-arm, Hieroglyphic-like jig mimicking that of your lighted Frostys. I performed the dance and story so often one holiday season that I gave myself some kind of rotator cuff injury.

And even though you are 56 this year, you have modernized and worked to stay with the times. You’ve replaced all your hot incandescent light bulbs. They once drew so much power that your finale could not have all your lights on at once or power to your whole block-sized building would blow. I liked the American flag that was raised at show’s end in the years following 9/11; it felt right then, but I don’t miss it now. And as much as I like Julie Andrews, I admit I really, truly miss your old “Voice of God” narration by Philly’s own John Facenda.

While it’s true too that I miss the Enchanted Fountains dancing to the music — spraying water inside a department store was just so weirdly wrong it was right — your sound is so much better now without the heavy tarps that caught the water but blocked the organ. In fact, if I am lucky enough to catch your show at a time when the organ starts playing right as the light show ends, I confess that is when my love for you and for this city just burbles to overflow and leaks out my eyes as tears of joy.

The best thing about you is your love is multi-generational. My mom remembers you from when she was a child and her grandmother brought her to Philly on the train from Harrisburg for a day of Christmas shopping. And though it is true that my seven year-old son has the jaundiced eye of computer-generation kids and is not as impressed as I am by your two-dimensional narrated dance (even with the new LED bulbs), I know that his opinion of you will sweeten in time with nostalgia. I hope that one day he brings my grandchildren to lie on the floor with all the other kids while they stare up at you and bask in the glory of your lights and music. And then they too will know what it is to love you.

 (Heather’s son enjoying the light show)
 (Heather and her son)

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Center City 1 Comment

One Response to Heather Calvert’s love note to Macy’s Christmas Pageant of Lights

  1. peter gauntt (the son



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