by Carmen Schwartz
One of the most recognized sights in the United States, and even across the globe, are the people dressed up in their warm woolen jackets and colorful hats skating in NYC, as the mammoth Christmas Tree lords over them at Rockefeller Center. It makes one feel nostalgic and very comforted to know that even in a world of extreme sports and danger, this is one beautiful tradition that has hung on.
Thinking of family, friends, homecomings and, of course, romance (seeing as that Hollywood made sure to use this sight for many movies to enhance the final scene of true love), ice skating at Rockefeller Center brings back amazing, sweet memories…even if you’ve never had the blessed opportunity to be there in person.
Ice skating may seem as if it’s about as extreme a sport as badminton; however, when it comes to the Olympic Games, you can see the difficulty and life-long training people take on in order to get all those difficult moves right. Gold medals are handed out for a reason; the winners must nail every step, throw, jump, axle, etc.; but the real beauty of ice skating is the fact that even the most untalented of us (and I can say this because I am a person who can trip over thin air), have the ability to learn how to stand up on those skates and move forward, enjoying the blinking lights of the famous Christmas Tree.
Ice skating has been with us far longer than Rockefeller Center has. In fact, ice skating first appears in historical papers over 3,000 years ago in Finland. Back then, of course, ice skating was used to get from one place to the other in times of need, or in search of food or lodging. Sharp, flat bone was actually strapped to the feet so that these skaters slid across the ice to get what they needed quickly and as safely as possible.
Beauty and technology came along over the centuries, and an inventor was kind enough to come up with a steel blade that cut into the ice instead of sliding across it. In the 14th century, sharpened edges were added to increase the person’s ability to move in all directions, and then the artisans appeared to put on canvas some of the most beautiful paintings ever created.
Yes, England was ahead of the Americans on this one. As with the fox hunting scenes of ‘old’, ice skating was a major sport that the high and mighty – extremely wealthy families in Britain engaged in. The Europeans also made sure to create the very first skating club (Edinburgh), so that all the aristocratic families could come together to enjoy the sport.
These clubs were said to have produced the first actual figure skaters. They are the ones who first brought about the jumps and fancy performances that became the foundation for all the amazing ‘tricks of the trade’ figure skaters perform in our modern-day times.
Some of the most well-known aristocrats enjoyed ice skating and brought it to their royal clans, from King John to Louis XVI to Napoleon to Queen Victoria. Even the Far East dynasties began adding ice skating to their repertoire of wealthy ‘things to do.’
Thankfully, the tradition has stood the test of time and expanded over the centuries to include people from all walks of life. Children and adults love to ice skate as much as they love the snowball fights and lugging that sled up the hill in order to swoop down at top speed.
And maybe…just maybe…by learning the art of ice skating, you will find your true love just waiting for you to appear at Rockefeller Center.