Dickens Village, light show evoke Christmases past for holiday crowds in Philly

Is it the rain? Or the compressed shopping season? For whatever reason, this year the crowd lining up for the Dickens Christmas Village at Macy’s is especially packed. The line stretches from women’s hosiery, through intimate wear, all the way into housewares.

“We started way back in bedding,” said Maria Frankowitz who grew up nearby in Wayne, Pa. “I used to be here when it was John Wanamaker’s. It’s wasn’t as sophisticated as this. You sat on Santa’s lap and you got a candy cane. So this is cool.” 

Frankowitz brought her grandson, Chris Galica, 11, who has visited the holiday display before but doesn’t remember much of it. “Houses and snow,” said Chris. “People walking around — a lot of people.”

Ladeen Barker, 10, also has been here before. “We come every year,” said his mother, Latonya. “Every year.”

He has more of a working memory of the proceedings.

“First you’ll see the ghost of Christmas Past, and then you’ll see the ghost of Christmas Present, and then the ghost of Christmas Future,” said Ladeen. “The ghost of Christmas Future is weird.”

“Spirit! Spirit, no! I will change,” pleads the animatronic Scrooge contemplating his own gravestone. “I will! I must!”

“Spirit! Spirit, no! I will change,” Scrooge repeats a few seconds later. “I will! I must!”

“Spirit! Spirit, no! I will change,” the looped audio again repeats, ad infinitum. “I will! I must!”

The robots in the Christmas Village have been reliving “A Christmas Carol,” over and over, for more than 20 years. Almost every adult here first came as kid with their parents.

“I haven’t been here since — I don’t want to tell you how old I am — 15 years or something,” said Sue Di Angelo of Broomall.

Does she remember enjoying it as a child?

“No. I was the second of five. I was with my brothers and sisters, and it was something my parents dragged us to do,” said DiAngelo, with her own kids, and her kids’ friends, and her kids’ friends’ parents in tow. It was a party of 10. “Now I have more respect and love for them — so I’m trying to share it with my kids.”

DiAngelo was waiting in a line that promised to be 20 minutes long before entering the village, which could take at least that much time again. Time was pressing for the Christmas Light Show, which Macy’s presents in its main atrium. DiAngelo remembers really liking the light show as a kid.

But the crowd was thick around the brass Eagle on the floor of the atrium. Macy’s has reduced the number of light shows by half — it dropped from one show an hour, to one every-other hour.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal