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New York This Holiday: Carols, Kwanzaa, Polar Bears Plunge

What to do in and around New York City over Christmas and New Year

Whether you celebrate Christmas or Kwanzaa or nothing at all, there’s something for everyone in New York in the coming weeks. Enjoy classic carols on Christmas Eve in Washington Square Park, eat a Jewish Christmas Chinese feast, or experience a Kwanzaa celebration at the Apollo Theater. Then, before you know it, 2015 is over! Whether you want a healthy way to ring in the New Year or need a surefire hangover cure on the first day of 2016, we’ve got you covered.  

December 24 | Deck the hall
Christmas Eve Caroling
Gather round the Christmas tree under the arch in Washington Square Park and ring in the Christmas holiday with an evening of caroling. The Rob Susman Brass Quartet will play the music for classic carols and the Washington Square Association will pass out complementary songbooks just in case you don’t know them all by heart. It doesn’t get much more wholesome than this.
5–6 p.m. | Washington Square Park, New York | Free | website

December 24–25 | Christmas alternative
Traditional Jewish Christmas: A Chinese Feast
American Jews have a longstanding tradition of eating Chinese food on Christmas. And with their annual Jewish Christmas Chinese feast, popular Montreal-meets-Manhattan Jewish eatery Mile End Deli do what they do best: modernizes tradition. Happening at both their Manhattan and Brooklyn locations on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the set, six-course meal will feature dishes like smoked meat dashi with spicy bamboo, mustard greens, and slow egg, and “corned” wings with spicy cumin aioli, crispy shallots, green onion, and black bean. The meal is offered on Christmas Eve at 5 p.m. in Manhattan and 6 p.m. in Brooklyn, and on Christmas day at 12 p.m. in Manhattan and 1 p.m. in Brooklyn. Vegetarian and kids menus are available upon request.
Times vary | Mile End Deli, 97A Hoyt St., Brooklyn and 53 Bond St., Manhattan | (646) 494-9508 | $65 | website

December 27 | Performance  
Kwanzaa Celebration: Regeneration Night
Mark your calendars: Kwanzaa, the weeklong holiday celebrating African American heritage, is December 26 through January 1. Support the seven principles of the holiday—which include building community and supporting African American ventures—by getting tickets to the annual Kwanzaa Celebration: Regeneration Night at the Apollo Theater. The program includes dance and music, including performances by New York–based dance company Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre. The evening is hosted by local radio personality Imhotep Gary Byrd, and is geared toward the whole family.
2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. | Apollo Theater, 253 W. 125 St., New York | From $20 | website

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December 31 | Ring in the New Year
Midnight Run
If you’re looking for a healthy way to ring in the new year, then check out the New York Road Runners’ four-mile Midnight Run. The festivities begin at 10 p.m. with music and dancing and there will be a countdown to midnight at 11:59. The race begins at the stroke of midnight, along with a fun firework display to cheer you on. The flashing glow sticks they give out will be even cooler than the ones you could have gotten at the club. There are even cash bonuses for runners with the top times.
10 p.m. | Central Park, 72nd St. Transverse near Bethesda Terrace, New York | From $20 | website

January 1 | Act like a polar bear
New Year’s Day Plunge
There is no better hangover cure than dunking into ice-cold water, and if you head to Coney Island you’ll be in good company with the annual Polar Bears Club New Year’s Day Plunge. Join thousands of fellow New Yorkers for an arctic dip in the Atlantic, if you can handle it. Hardcore Polar Bears meet for a swim every Sunday throughout the winter, but this is by far the most heavily attended event. It is free, but participants should register ahead of time (you’ll get comped admission to the aquarium!) and are encouraged to donate or fundraise for Camp Sunshine, a resort for kids with terminal illnesses and their families.
1 p.m. | Boardwalk at Stillwell Ave., Coney Island | Free | website

Weekend escape
Newport, RI
Although it’s a popular summer destination, Newport, RI (about 175 miles from Manhattan) is perhaps even lovelier in the winter. The weekends of December 25 and January 1 catch the end of the 45th annual Christmas in Newport celebrations, when the whole town is decked out in holiday cheer and illuminated by clear lights that mimic candlelight. Don’t miss the candlelit tour of private historic homes, as well as special historical walking tours and holiday-themed services at the local churches. Book a room at the Hotel Viking, an elegant gilded era hotel that was built in the 1920s in response to the spike in tourism; be sure to take advantage of their full-service spa.

A native New Yorker, Katherine is a freelance food and travel writer who has eaten her way across the globe and is always on the lookout for her next great meal. She is an avid reader, insatiable traveler, sometimes photographer, and mom to an inquisitive toddler.