As teh calendar turns to November, the world is getting ready for the holiday season – including Radio City Music Hall where animals were on parade for their annual Christmas blessing.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan was at Radio City Music Hall to bless the animals starring in the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular nativity scene – a tradition dating to 1933.
Dolan and several dancers stood in blustery 30-degree weather on Thursday morning. The tenth archbishop of New York splashed holy water on the animals in anticipation of their opening performance in a live nativity on November 17.
Among the furry performers was a donkey named Henry, a sheep named Phil and a camel named Humphrey.
‘We really feel so lucky to have the animals be a part of our show,’ dancer Jackie Aitmen told FOX 5 New York.
Cardinal Christopher Dolan, the tenth archbishop of New York, stood outside Radio City Music Hall Thursday morning
Dolan joined forces with the Rockettes to bless the animals starring in their living nativity scene
The animals will make in appearance in the iconic Christmas Spectacular, opening November 17
Among the performers is a camel named Humphrey
‘It’s such a beautiful, magical, immersive part of our show. It comes right at the end and really does exemplify what this means to us.’
The show features a living nativity scene along with 90 minutes of dancing.
This year marks the second debut of the Dance of the Frost Fairies, a number that features drones flying above the audience.
‘We need a little Christmas right this very moment, don’t we?’ Dolan said.
The archbishop has been blessing the animals for nearly two decades and insists that it never gets old.
‘In the Church’s mind, Christmas is worth preparing for,’ said Dolan.
‘This is the way it should be. The city comes alive, I’ve got family coming in. It’s just that things kind of seem focused in a life that often seems frantic, things are focused.’
Two sheep – one of whom is named Phil – and a donkey named Henry waited in the cold to be splashed with holy water
Dolan said the upcoming holiday brings order to a life that sometimes feels ‘frantic’
In the past, animals have been sourced from Hedrick’s Exotic Animal Farm in Kansas
The animals are trained using commands like ‘move up’ and ‘whoa’
The archbishop even led the group in a prayer.
‘Lord, we need a little Christmas. Whatever faith we got, even if we don’t, our hearts long for warmth and love and peace and reconciliation. Christmas can bring that and do we ever need it,’ he said.
The animals have historically been sourced from Hedrick’s Exotic Animal Farm in Kansas.
But how do the show’s producers know which creatures are fit to perform?
‘We don’t try each one out in the theater,’ Joe Hedrick, owner of the farm, explained in a 2005 interview with the Chicago Tribune.
Instead, they take into account the animals’ personalities.
‘We know that some camels prefer to work outdoors and we have to take into account their dispositions and attitudes,’ Hedrick said.
‘There was padding under the floor one year and one of the camels was cautious, like a person on ice, when she walked on it so she didn’t work out.’
The animals are trained with cues like ‘move up’ and ‘whoa.’
The animals were led by their handlers down the streets of Manhattan
The archbishop has been blessing the animals for 15 years and claims it ‘never gets old’
Dolan led the group in prayer, saying: ‘Whatever faith we got, even if we don’t, our hearts long for warmth and love and peace and reconciliation’
In addition to the living nativity, the show features a number called Dance of the Frost Fairy that makes use of drones
The Christmas show has played to more than 70 million people since 1933
Since it opened at Radio City in 1933, the show has played to an audience of more than 70 million people.
Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. produces the spectacle, which is presented by QVC.
Tickets start at $49 and can be purchased online.
‘It’s definitely the tradition,’ dancer Paige McRae said when asked about her favorite part of the show.
She said she was looking forward to bringing Christmas magic to ‘all of New York and everyone who comes to visit.’