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This year's Saks Fifth Avenue holiday display sees

This year's Saks Fifth Avenue holiday display sees Snow White -- no that's not her -- in modern-day fashions. (Credit: Saks Fifth Avenue )

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Saks Fifth Avenue holiday windows and light show, from design to installation

611 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10021

It’s Fifth Avenue’s most festive time of the year.

Saks Fifth Avenue has been transforming its holiday windows into winter wonderlands for the past 90-plus Christmases.

This year’s theme, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," takes you to an enchanted world of magical woodland creatures. All of the flagship’s Fifth Avenue-facing windows showcase scenes from the fairytale on the 80th anniversary of the film.

Find out what it takes to create the Saks holiday display that lights up midtown through the season.

Early displays depicted glamorous holiday party scenes, with

Credit: Saks Fifth Avenue

The holiday displays were once really about fashion

Early displays depicted glamorous holiday party scenes, with mannequins wearing high-end fashions pictured, left. In the 1970s, the windows would be decked out with purchasable Louis Vuitton bags and other designer items, pictured, right. Over the years, "they have transformed into the present day animated windows and light show" Saks is known for, said Mark Briggs, EVP of the Creative COE for HBC. At Saks, Briggs is known as the creative mastermind behind the holiday displays.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, more than 500,000 people

Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Half-a-million people drop by every day

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, more than 500,000 people peer into the windows daily, Briggs said. "It is quite a magical experience," he added. "New York City would not be the same if it weren't for the whimsical scenes and twinkling décor."

It takes nearly a year to create small,

Credit: Fred Schwam

The design team is already prepping for next year’s display

It takes nearly a year to create small, yet incredibly elaborate, worlds inside the Saks windows. Light and decoration company American Christmas is responsible for many of the festive displays spotted around the city during the holiday season, including the 72-foot Christmas tree that stands atop Radio City Music Hall. Owner and CEO Fred Schwam and his team have been installing the lights featured along the facade of Saks Fifth Avenue since 2004.

"When I tell people I own a Christmas decoration company, I'm often asked what I do the rest of the year," Schwam said. "We literally are working on it on a weekly basis for about 10 months leading up to the installation." Nearly 200 people work on the project, between brainstorm sessions, theme and design discussions, construction and set up.

Seeing a child's face light up at the

Credit: Bruce Gilbert

You’re being watched -- and it’s the team’s favorite part

Seeing a child's face light up at the sight of a Christmas scene coming to life on Fifth Avenue never fails to be magical. For those who worked months on creating the displays, it's also incredibly rewarding. "The team and I like to stand on the sidewalk and watch how people respond and interact with each window," Briggs said.

Schwam agreed: "I've been doing this 29 years and it still gives me tremendous pleasure watching the smiles and observing people."

Your reaction helps the team decide what themes

Credit: Bruce Gilbert

They don’t do it just for those warm-and-fuzzy feelings, though

Your reaction helps the team decide what themes and characters to string along into the following year's display and what to drop. "Seeing their reactions ... excited, indifferent, or something in between ... is crucial in helping develop themes and corresponding window stories for the next year," Briggs said.

Schwam's installation team works on-site from 10 p.m.

Credit: Philips Communications

Just like Santa and his elves, the installation team works its magic overnight

Schwam's installation team works on-site from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. over the course of six weeks before the November unveiling. Since his team works on Saks' exterior displays, that may mean closing the streets overnight.

"We arrive on-site with cranes and bucket trucks and designers, technicians and installers," he said. "It's a very, very well coordinated process that we map out well in advance. We plan our work for each night so we finish in time for opening."

The windows trace Snow White's story, from a

Credit: Saks Fifth Avenue

'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' shows the princess in 21st-century fashion

The windows trace Snow White's story, from a misunderstood and oppressed princess to a frolicking, happy child in the forest with the dwarfs. Animated characters, deep and rich portrayals of the forest and the castle, and an unsettlingly realistic depiction of the wicked queen make the holiday window display unique this year. Designers Alberta Ferretti, Naeem Khan, Monique Lhuillier and Marchesa have also designed modern, 21st century fairytale gowns for Snow White, which are on display in the windows.

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