- Associated Press - Monday, November 28, 2011

NEW YORK — Long gift list or short, light wallet or big spender, window shopping is something that can be enjoyed by almost everyone. Manhattan’s most famous Midtown retailers are known for splashy displays that have become as much a holiday tradition here as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree or sidewalk Santas.

Store executives say they see the windows as their seasonal gifts to the city.

“I think New York being what New York is - it’s the window capital of the world - it sees people from all over the world come to New York to experience the holiday,” said Paul Olszewski, Macy’s director of windows.

Some stores have added high-tech twists in recent years. At Bloomingdale’s, cameras have been incorporated into displays, and photos will beam from the windows as well as from the retailer’s Facebook page. At Macy’s, there are touch screens to design a 3-D ornament that can be sent back to your cellphone.

“It’s all the kids who totally get how to do this,” Mr. Olszewski said.

Still, it’s largely left to the reindeer, snowmen and jolly St. Nick to spread the cheer.

Some highlights:

• Tiffany & Co.: Using the familiar (and nearby) Central Park as its reference, Tiffany has fashioned a miniature wonderland anchored with a carousel.

The carousel animals, including zebras, lions and giraffes, take off in the Christmas Eve sky to deliver holiday gems to presumably good girls and boys.

• Saks Fifth Avenue: Snowflakes and bubbles are the stars here, elaborating on two previously popular themes for the retailer. The windows tell the story “Who Makes the Snow,” which features a girl searching for the source of these magical, visual treats. (The picture book is being sold exclusively at Saks.)

• Bloomingdale’s: The flagship store on 59th Street uses as its centerpiece some of its vintage shopping bags - made bigger and better with movements that enable passers-by to peer inside.

Some of the bags have been reproduced, and a different one will go home with shoppers each week through Christmas.

• Lord & Taylor: Inspired by a 1941 illustration by Carl S. Wilson called “What is Christmas Made Of?” the store asked local children to draw what they think constitutes the holiday.

The favorites: picking out a tree, trimming it with all the bells and whistles, ice-skating in Central Park, building a snowman and waiting for Santa. They’re among the themes incorporated into windows.

• Macy’s: Designers used many shades of white as both the backdrop and decoration for each scene, encouraging each passer-by to imagine his or her own magical holiday moment.

The story, which moves from window to window, starts with a mysterious ship that is headed to the North Pole but takes a few detours by the Tree of Wishes and a wish factory before reaching its destination.

• Bergdorf Goodman: Bergdorf always weaves high fashion into its holiday story, but this year it shares the coveted Fifth Avenue space with wild animals visiting the urban jungle.

The theme of “Carnival of the Animals” puts a black-and-white lace gown by Marchesa within striking distance of a life-sized paper zebra, ostrich, panda bear, aardvark and peacock.

A tropical forest made of metals and mirrors is home to a giant brass birdcage and a dress by Naeem Khan, and a mannequin modeling J. Mendel’s gown surrounds herself with polar bears, a moose, wolves, a seal and a mountain goat.

• Barneys New York: To support Gaga’s Workshop, a special Lady Gaga-themed in-store shop, the windows depict four themes: Gaga Constellation, Gaga Machine, Gaga’s Boudoir and Gaga’s Crystal Cave.

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