Sneak peek at the 2019 Macy’s Christmas window display, ‘Believe in the Wonder’

Yes, Santa and his elves are coming to town. Macy's Christmas windows are already in the works and will arrive at the Herald Square location right after Halloween. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

A team of more than 200 people has been working all year to build the holiday window displays, set to be unveiled on Nov. 21.

Yes, Santa and his elves are coming to town. Macy's Christmas windows are already in the works and will arrive at the Herald Square location right after Halloween.
Yes, Santa and his elves are coming to town. Macy’s Christmas windows are already in the works and will arrive at the Herald Square location right after Halloween. Photo Credit: Chris Ozer

While you’re planning your spooky Halloween fun, nearly 200 New Yorkers already have the magic of Christmas on their minds. After all, it’s their job.

Macy’s and Standard Transmission Productions Studio have been crafting the retailer’s holiday window display at a workshop in Red Hook with the goal of having it set up by Nov. 21.

We got a sneak peek inside the workshop, and here’s what we learned:

Roya Sullivan, the national windows director at Macy's, with Santa at a behind-the-scenes look at the Macy's holiday window display at their workshop in Red Hook.
Roya Sullivan, the national windows director at Macy’s, with Santa at a behind-the-scenes look at the Macy’s holiday window display at their workshop in Red Hook. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Santa Girl

As always, Macy’s has six windows it will be dressing up but each holiday season features a new story created by its marketing team and Roya Sullivan, its national director of window presentation. 

The story goes that the main character, "Santa Girl," watches the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from her bedroom window and wishes she were Santa Claus. Visitors will go on a journey with Santa Girl to learn that Santa can be in all of our hearts, hence the theme: "Believe in the Wonder."

Across the half-dozen windows will be chrome-dipped elves and Santa Claus (made to look like traditional Christmas tree ornaments) that "float" in the parade; a larger-than-life model of Santa Girl’s dog, Willow, who scratches her ear when visitors press her nose; a video game where visitors use a steering wheel to drive on a road filled with presents; and a mechanical kaleidoscope that takes photos of onlookers who want to be Santa, too.

Special this year: A 15-foot-tall Santa is coming out of storage to be placed on the marquee atop the Broadway entrance. It will reach 18 feet high. 

Jennifer Brickman tries out window 5, which includes an interactive game you drive with a steering wheel that sticks out from the window.
Jennifer Brickman tries out window 5, which includes an interactive game you drive with a steering wheel that sticks out from the window. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

The ‘elves’ and their craft

A team of more than 200 people — window stylists, graphic artists, sculptors, painters, animators, carpenters, electricians, engineers and music and sound experts — are all a part of the process, which begins in January of each year. 

The windows have been a Macy’s tradition since 1874. They’ve featured moving characters in various settings since 1899, and over the years, characters have been carved from Styrofoam. This year, Plexiglas, LED lights, chrome paint and interactive elements have taken precedence, Sullivan said. 

"As we’ve grown and learned about more technology, it’s now in 50 percent of the windows," she said. "We think our customer not only wants to experience the beauty and tradition of the windows but they want to be part of them and want to be in them even." 

Jennifer Brickman, head of the props department for the Macy's holiday window display, unwraps chrome balloons of Santa and his elves.
Jennifer Brickman, head of the props department for the Macy’s holiday window display, unwraps chrome balloons of Santa and his elves. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

‘The most wonderful time of the year’

By using technology, Macy’s has been able to track how many people interact with their windows. Last year, an average of 10,000 people walked by the windows per hour. 

That’s why it’s important the retailer and its artists stay on schedule. After eight months of planning and building the elements, the team ships everything in trucks from the warehouse to Macy’s Herald Square over several nights starting Nov. 1. Each window is set up one at a time before the official unveiling 21 days later.

The giant Santa will be brought in with a crane overnight while the store is closed so the magic isn’t spoiled.

See it all for yourself at the unveiling at 6 p.m. on Nov. 21.

Workers make part of a Christmas tree at their workshop in Red Hook.
Workers make part of a Christmas tree at their workshop in Red Hook. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Shaye Weaver