What’s happening for the holidays in NYC

It’s Christmastime in the city


Photo: Björk Café & Bistro
Food is always an important element of any Christmas celebration, and at Scandinavian House on Park Avenue in New York, Björk Café and Bistro offers up a holiday prix fixe menu in December and a Scandinavian Christmas Buffet on Dec. 24. A family-friendly celebration is also planned for New Year’s Eve.

Ragnhild Hjeltnes
Assistant Editor
The Norwegian American

There is nothing quite like New York City in December. The bustling city brings out the holiday magic every year, and tourists from near and far flock to the Big Apple to soak it all in. The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza is an obligatory stop, and no Christmas experience in New York is complete without catching a dazzling holiday show or concert.

And of course, the list doesn’t end there. There are the open-air holiday markets (try Union Square or Bryant Square Park) and the over-the-top window displays on Fifth Avenue. Go ice skating in Central Park. Eat dinner at a world-class restaurant all decked up for the holidays. Perhaps chase down the set locales of your favorite Christmas movies. The opportunities to be swept away by the city’s magic are endless. There truly is nothing quite like Christmastime in New York City.

If you are planning to make a trip this year, consider adding a Nordic touch to your New York holiday experience. There are plenty of opportunities to celebrate jul in the city Scandi-style, whether through food, music, special events, or at a julemarked.


Photo: Norwegian Seaman’s Church
The Norwegian Seamen’s Church in New York has decked the halls with holiday decor to celebrated the season in style.

If you go on the earlier side, make sure to stop by the Seaman’s Church for their annual Julemarked, Nov. 17-19. The friendly Norwegian staff, warm atmosphere, and abundance of Norwegian Christmas décor offers a solid dose of old-fashioned julestemning to kickstart the season. There is a variety of Christmas items for sale, rømmegrøt, gløgg, and baked goods to enjoy, and their food store is open so you can stock up on chocolates and traditional Christmas specialties like herring and cured meats.

In December, the Seaman’s Church puts on several other events, including two Christmas concerts (Dec. 2 and 16) and a lunch with traditional Norwegian Christmas eve menus on Dec. 6 (pinnekjøtt) and Dec. 13 (ribbe).

Scandinavia House on Park Avenue also has a variety of holiday offerings each year. Their annual holiday concert with members of the Swedish Church Choir in New York takes place on Dec. 10. Children and families don’t want to miss their Holiday Julbord on Dec. 9 and 10, which will feature traditional Saint Lucia processions.

christmas ball

Photo: American Scandinavian Society
A traditional highlight of the New York City Christmas season is the American Scandinavian Society’s Christmas Ball held at the Metropolitan Club.

Before you leave Scandinavia House, give yourself enough time to sit down at Björk Café and Bistro. The café, which presents “new and traditional Nordic fusion in a comfortable and upscale setting,” offers a holiday prix fixe menu available Dec. 11-23, with a Scandinavian Christmas buffet served on Dec. 24. They also have a special family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration planned.

Another restaurant option – if you are looking for Nordic food – is Aquavit, a Michelin two-star restaurant also located in Midtown Manhattan. For the two weeks leading up to Christmas, their menu includes a Scandinavian “Christmas plate,” and on Christmas Eve, a Scandinavian Julebord buffet. Or, if all you are looking for is a dose of Christmas hygge, stop by their barroom and ask for a hot cup of gløgg with gingersnaps, available throughout the season.

Hygge, or adventskos, can also be found in the city’s many Nordic bakeries. Although none are Norwegian per se, Ole & Steen (Danish) and Fabrique (Swedish) both dish up an excellent assortment of authentic and delicious Scandinavian breads and baked goods. Give your legs a break and sit down for a cup of coffee and a freshly baked cinnamon bun in a cozy setting.

For those looking to take their holiday celebrations to the next level, the American Scandinavian Society holds their 115th Annual Christmas Ball on Dec, 1 at the Metropolitan Club, one of New York’s most exclusive private clubs. The gala event consists of a cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres, a three-course dinner, an open bar, dancing to a live orchestra, and a Lucia procession. (See “New York celebrates the season in style” in the Dec. 17, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.)


Photo: American Scandinavian Society
Every year, Sankta Lucia descends on the steps of Metropolitan Club’s lobby to greet the guests, as an elegant evening comes to a close.

If you’re willing to venture out of Manhattan, consider making a trip to Brooklyn, the borough that was once home to a large Norwegian immigrant community, to see the Dyker Heights holiday lights (see “The lights of New York” in the Dec. 17, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American). While there, you could stop by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for their Lightscape holiday light show.

Whatever you choose for your New York holiday adventure, prepare to be dazzled.

This article originally appeared in the November 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Ragnhild Hjeltnes

Ragnhild Hjeltnes is assistant editor of The Norwegian American. Born and raised in Norway, she studied at Luther College in Iowa and at the University of Minnesota. She has worked at the consulate in Minneapolis for several years and now lives in New York with her family.