Setsuko Watanabe's World Sketches

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New York Christmas
and Former U.S. President Nixon

Christmas is a festival for northern countries.
The colder the place in which the country is located, where it starts getting slightly dark from noon, the more gorgeously people celebrate Christmas. The festival feeling starts building at Halloween and Thanksgiving, and reaches its climax at Christmas. Around town, even the trees in people's gardens are sparkling with lights and people's clothes and the decorations in their houses are in the Christmas colors of green and red. This cheerful, decorative celebration is a way of spending the long, dark, cold winter a little more cheerfully and pleasantly, passed down as the wisdom of previous generations.

Christmas tree
Christmas tree decorated
only with origami

Copyright1998 Shiro Watanabe
December in New York is quite special. New Yorkers, who are often said to be cold, become much more kind-hearted in December. Their purse-strings also become looser. The number of donations to the homeless and Salvation Army increase. Numerous Christmas presents are bought. One person probably gives presents to tens of people. Lunchtime in Manhattan is full of businessmen looking for presents. At 4:30, the sun has already set. It's so cold that you can't walk outside without wearing a hat covering your ears, a long overcoat, gloves and a muffler to cover your nose and mouth, and a pair of boots. Not paying any mind to the cold, New Yorkers walk briskly around town. They are very busy going to see all the Christmas trees and buying presents. Every year at the Japan Airlines building, the Christmas tree is decorated simply with only origami. To native New Yorkers, this looks very original and they even go out of their way to bring their children and come see it.

The most note-worthy Christmas tree is the one at Rockefeller Center, decorated with 20,000 lights. This is the 66th year for the tree and it was lit up on December 2 at 7:30. I was told that it was grown in Ohio and stood 22.5 meters tall. At the rink downstairs from the tree, many people were enjoying themselves ice-skating.

Richard Nixon
December 24, 1993,
at the Rockefeller Center

Copyright1998 Shiro Watanabe

It was a white Christmas eve in 1993. After going to see the traditional performance of the Nutcracker Suite (Tchaikovsky) at the Lincoln Center, we went to see to the Rockefeller Center to see the tree around 10 p.m. A crowd started to form and someone said "It's Richard Nixon." Supported by his body guards, an elderly man appeared who was dignified but seemed weak somehow. He slowly held out his hand to my second oldest son and after shaking hands, asked him "Would you like to have your picture taken with me?" In a second, I pressed the shutter. Having lost his wife, Patricia, just a half a year ago, I wonder how he felt when he looked upon the Christmas tree for what would be the last time in his life. In May the following year, the former president passed away at the age of 81.

It snowed on Christmas, the following day, as well. A white Christmas is a sign of happiness. The people were very happy and came to Central Park in droves. Whether they were pulling sleds, building snowmen, snowboarding or ice-skatingäčall were different expressions of their joy. I realized Christmas is really a festival for countries with snow.

New York Christmas
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
New York Department Stores at Christmas
Illumination in Tokyo

Copyright1998 Setsuko Watanabe

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