Friday, December 12, 2008

A Season of Hope: Holidays on Wall St.

By Heather J. Chin

The Christmas melodies of Gavin deGraw and Aretha Franklin were two of the main attractions at the New York Stock Exchange’s annual tree lighting ceremony this year. Beyond the glitz of Rockefeller Plaza, Wall Street’s celebration has the distinction of being organized by New Yorkers for New Yorkers, with plenty of holiday cheer permeating the gloom that become a familiar part of our days.

Hundreds of New Yorkers past and present gathered downtown for an evening of celebration, rumination and time with family before facing a new year and uncertain economic times.

Larry Lampiasi came downtown to watch his granddaughter sing with her schoolmates in Brick, New Jersey’s Monsignor Donovan Choir. As a self-employed salesman, he says he’s felt the economic pinch, but thinks the holiday season will help.

Jack Ruppenthar, also present to support his grandson in the choir, agreed, noting that the current economic recession would hurt those with financial investments and retirement savings and 401Ks. But with the holiday season upon us, he thinks it “will make people think more, being a little more frugal … putting more thought into the quality of gifts over the quantity of gifts.”

The ceremony outside the NYSE building on Broad Street between Wall Street and Exchange Place is quite possibly the most personal, meaningful and even oldest of all the high-profile holiday events in New York City, as it takes place in the heart of old New York and has been a tradition since 1923.

This year, while Mr. DeGraw and Ms. Franklin’s drew audience members who recognize their music and name, the evening’s entertainment and festive atmosphere also catered to the younger generation. Performances from local teen musicians were featured: Long Island rock band Push Play and 14-year-old Tiffany Giardina – her music is included in an upcoming movie, “Another Cinderella Story” – who grew up in New York.

Also on hand was 25-year-old jazz pianist and singer Peter Cincotti, whose blend of traditional jazz and classic styles with rock and pop made his song “December Boys” and his Christmas-themed melodies transfix crowd members of all ages.

Alceste, a New Jersey native and former retirement center COO who moved to Florida several years ago, noted the impact of the current economic crisis on both the younger and older generations.

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