NYC residents spread Christmas cheer with gifts, family, prayers

Ah-roma of the season

The fragrant aroma of gingerbread wafted on the damp air Saturday afternoon through the red and white striped stalls of the holiday market in Union Square Park.

Stephanie Almanzar smiled at last-minute shoppers from behind the scent’s source — stacks of chocolates and almond and hazelnut-encrusted Lebkuchen, a German holiday treat.

“I enjoy being a part of the Christmas season,” Almanzar said.

For the past two years, the 23-year-old has spent the holiday season working at Leckerlee, a small booth selling sweets and traditional German treats packed into colorful tins.

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Booths stacked with handcrafted goods and children’s toys surrounded the small stand, potential customers rushing past in the rain, but Almanzar said the Christmas spirit made the nook cozy.

I shop here myself for Christmas gifts,” she said of the market.

The Bavarian sweets are a big seller and Almanzar’s enthusiasm, even as the hours ticked down to Christmas, helped draw customers from around the world.

“The customers love flocking to our booth, especially the European visitors who know the German tradition of Lebkuchen,” she said. “It’s made here in NYC. We only sell goods during the holiday season. It’s softer and tastier and overall a better experience.”

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It's a fam-tastic finish

Crystal McCreary hopped on an uptown A train Saturday afternoon, a menagerie of shopping bags and a tiny tree her Christmas Eve travel companions saw.

The actress, who lives in Harlem, picked out the 2-foot-tall fir at a stand in Union Square Park to make her small Harlem pad feel a little more like home for the holidays.

“I was clearly meant to have this tree,” McCreary said. “I love Christmas in the city.”

The tree proved to be the most elusive item on McCreary’s wish list as December slipped away and Christmas crept up.

“This is the first Christmas I’m spending with my family in New York,” McCreary said. “I’m originally from Milwaukee. Most of us are actually going to spend part of the day tomorrow at my apartment.”

She said she finished up her holiday shopping and was heading home to decorate the tree along with her sister and her mother, who made their way from the Midwest for the holiday.

“To me, Christmas is at home with family. This year they’re all in my apartment,” McCreary said.

Strings are the Things

Four-year-old Milan Humpher waits for rehearsal to begin — Trinity church prepares for a festive and family-friendly Christmas Eve with a procession

Under the vaulted ceiling of a historic Lower Manhattan church, the Christmas story came to life.

A procession of 8-foot-tall fantastical puppets representing the Holy Family and other Christmas figures dazzled the hundreds of faithful packed into Trinity Church Saturday afternoon.

The exquisitely-detailed puppets — Mary and Joseph, shepherds, angels and the magi — were handmade by a staff member and animated by volunteers.

“All the senses were engaged and it was just so dramatic, the size and the artistry of the puppets,” said Rev. Kristin Miles.

Andreas Grant won’t soon forget this Christmas.

The 10-year-old Tribeca boy played baby Jesus.

Lesson in giving & buying

A Brooklyn mother was on a Christmas Eve mission — to make her kids do the dirty work.

Thessalonia Washington decided to handle her holiday shopping a little different this year: by allotting each of her four kids $200 each and letting them shop for themselves.

“It’s less trouble and stress for me, because I don’t have to run around... you could just bring them, and they get what they want,” the 29-year-old said.

The mom, along with daughter Neviah, 11, twin boys Eli and Elijah, 8, and 5-year-old Nyriah, spent about an hour and a half Saturday wandering the aisles of the Target near their home in Flatbush.

“We just started this year. We’re making our own tradition,” Washington said.

Each kid was responsible for their own budget, with Washington pointing out prices and letting the kids know roughly how much they were spending.

More than a few minutes were spent at a price scanner at the end of an aisle as the cart began to overflow with toys and clothes.

“They’re not getting all this. They’re just throwing stuff in the cart, they don’t know how quickly it adds up, they think it will just stretch.”

Then came the time for thinning out the picks, which went pretty smoothly.

In the end, back went the bright green radio control car and Dreamtopia Barbie, but the large bucket of Play-Doh, bicycle pump, Suite Teepee Tent, and even the Pokémon cards passed muster.

“I get anxiety, there’s so much pressure. This way, I see what they get, it’s things they want,” Washington said as they wheeled the cart toward the checkout.

“We’re religious, and this is Jesus’ birthday. It’s not all about buying things. But we’re very lucky, I wasn’t always able to do this.”

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