Sharing first holiday seasons in New York City

From Times Square to the annual holiday market at Columbus Circle, New York City's festive sights and traditions attract people from all over the world every year.

Here, tourists and New Yorkers share memories of their first holiday in New York City.

Jennifer Monserrate, from Puerto Rico:

This is Monserrate's first holiday in New York City and she has already visited most of the tourist hot spots like Rockefeller Center, Chinatown, Times Square and Central Park. Despite loving the traditional Christmas in Puerto Rico, Monserrate recognizes there is something special about spending the holiday season in Manhattan.

"This is the first time I come to New York to visit," she said. "I've been here for 7 days, and the first place I went to was Times Square. I'm here to spend the holidays with my family. It's important to me."

"In Puerto Rico the Christmas season is longer, and we continue the season with lots of parties," she said. "I love it here because of the lights, the colors. But I thought it would be snowing."
Kevin Turner, from Delaware:

Turner, who has been living in Manhattan for six years, remembers his first visit to the Big Apple during the holiday season.

"I came up and went to see Liza Minnelli at the Palace Theatre and then walked over to Rockefeller Center," he said. "I absolutely hated the crowds, but then the tree was beautiful and it really got me in the spirit."

Sisters Alanna and Tara Fechtig, from Long Island:

The Fechtigs were doing some last minute shopping at the Columbus Circle Holiday market this week.

"I'll come to Columbus Circle, but I don't go to the tree," said Alanna Fechtig. "We had a tradition of going to see The Rockettes at Radio City, but that's died out. Now we just shop on Canal Street. That's our tradition."

"We do Christmas Eve with our dad and then Christmas Day with our mom," said Tara Fechtig. "Family comes from out of town and friends (are) coming home from school so, it's just good to be with everybody again."

Tania Stavreva, from Bulgaria:

For Stavreva, a concert pianist, living in Manhattan is a dream come true. She remembers the joy of her first holiday season in the city.

"I was with a group of friends in Manhattan and we were watching "Die Hard" on TV while having drinks and food," she said. "In the music world, especially in NYC, you make friends from around the world so our Christmas party was very international. It is amazing how music can make you feel at home anywhere, even while away from your family."

"I moved to NYC right after college. I've been living here for about five years so it was a very big occasion for me. I would go to see the Rockefeller Tree, Bryant Park, Times Square, Lincoln Center... I would take photos, and feel so much joy while walking on the streets of the greatest city in the world."

In Bulgaria, she said, traditions differ, but the universal meaning is similar.

"On Christmas Eve, my family prepares seven to nine vegan dishes," she said. "The whole family would get together, and on Christmas Day, we can eat meat and open the gifts ... Christmas to me is not just a family holiday -- for the family only -- but a time when you can also be open to and kind to anybody in the world. (It's) a holiday for a better world, I hope."
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