NEW YORK -- Forget window shopping, some of Manhattan's biggest and most storied retailers say their elaborate seasonal window displays are a gift to passers-by.
Reimagining every major holiday covered in a slick coating of ice, re-creating cozy Christmas-morning scenes and paying homage to a local legend can be a yearlong labor of love.
"Every store has their own style," says David Hoey, senior director of visual presentation at Bergdorf Goodman. "We try to pick a theme that will lend itself for us to go to town. We all do."
At his corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, arguably one of the most famous shopping intersections in the world, Hoey isn't just celebrating Christmas, he's paying homage to 12 holidays, including Valentine's Day, Independence Day and Halloween. One of his favorite windows is the April Fools' Day display that depicts a lovely outdoor springtime scene -- assembled upside down.
Kitty-corner from Bergdorf is Tiffany & Co. and its scenes that aim to capture the New York holiday of your best dreams and memories. "We are telling a story of the lives that go on here and the interactions that happen on Christmas Day and on that morning in New York City," says Richard Moore, vice president of creative visual merchandising.
He does add a little product to the scenes -- it is a store, after all -- but the holiday windows aren't as much about pushing sales. "It's about holiday spirit and celebrated tradition. The windows are for all ages, all different cultures. We just want you to stop and look and engage in our windows."
Hoey eagerly visits the windows of the other big stores. It's a treat and a tradition, he says. "Window dressers and the people who do window displays is a very small community. We look at everyone's windows. We are just as excited to see the other windows as everyone else is."
Moore soaks up the season, too. "There's no better time to think about (the) next holiday than this holiday."
Here's what window watchers can see now through the end of December, all located in midtown:
• Barneys NY: Barneys' holiday collaboration with Jay Z, whose full name is Shawn Corey Carter, certainly has created the most headlines, but not for the windows or the BNY SCC collection items they feature. The focus has been on the partnership in the midst of customers' accusations of racial profiling while they were buying expensive items.
The windows, though, are trained on high tech with interactive installations that feature light shows and a virtual sleigh ride with Santa and Mrs. Claus, fresh off Madison Avenue makeovers.
The one people are most likely to be into is the one they really can be in. There are entrances and exits on the side of a darkened theater display for a three-minute, 3-D experience of the city skyline.
• Bergdorf Goodman: The "Holidays on Ice" theme exists in a "sort-of time warp," Hoey says. There are details from the 17th through 21st centuries -- and all coated with a little glimmer and shimmer.
• Bloomingdale's: A quick trip around the block seems a trip around the world, with oversized packages celebrating shopping around the world, including France, Italy and China -- and New York, of course.
• Henri Bendel: A celebration of the work of the late illustrator Al Hirschfeld, the windows peek into an imaginary dinner party -- at a tony town house, of course -- filled with the celebrities who so often were his subjects. The guest list includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Liza Minnelli, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.
• Lord & Taylor: There's also a party going on here. It's part of the celebration of the traditional trappings of the season: shopping for gifts, taking tea and kissing goodnight.
• Macy's: A little boy journeys through an enchanted forest, meeting all sorts of extraordinary characters along the way, and comes away with belief in faith and some magical dreams.
• Saks Fifth Avenue: Snow falls from the sky in a 3-D light show. Or, could someone -- or something -- be shaking the snow from the rooftop? Follow the story of Yeti, an underappreciated snowmaker in Siberia.
• Tiffany & Co.: A miniature sleigh filled with boxes in Tiffany Blue visits an enchanting neighborhood on a snowy night.
Those are the landmarks, but some other retailers have wrapped up their flagship stores as presents, too, including Tommy Bahama, wishing shoppers "Happy Huladays" in a sea of potted palm trees; Banana Republic, boasting a "candy shop"; and Kate Spade adding Swarovski crystals to the cityscape.