As the calendar turns to November, the world gets ready for the holidays, including Radio City Music Hall, where animals paraded 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 – a tradition that dates back to 1933.
Dolan and several dancers stood in stormy, 90-degree weather Thursday morning. The tenth Archbishop of New York splashed holy water on the animals ahead of their opening performance in a live nativity scene on November 17.
Among the furry performers were a donkey named Henry, a sheep named Phil and a camel named Humphrey.
“We really feel so lucky to have the animals as part of our show,” said dancer Jackie Aitmen 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 in their living nativity scene
The animals will appear in the iconic Christmas Spectacular, which opens on November 17
Among the performers is a camel named Humphrey
“It’s such a beautiful, magical, compelling part of our show. It comes right at the end and really illustrates what this means to us.”
The show includes a live nativity scene and 90 minutes of dancing.
This year marks the second debut of the Dance of the Frost Fairies, a song in which drones fly above the audience.
“We need a little Christmas right now, don’t we?” Dolan said.
The archbishop has been blessing the animals for almost twenty years and emphasizes that they will never grow old.
“In the eyes of the Church, Christmas is worth preparing for,” Dolan said.
‘This is the way it should be. The city comes alive, family comes by. It’s just that in a life that often seems hectic, things seem 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 “hectic.”
In the past, animals have come from Hedrick’s Exotic Animal Farm in Kansas
The animals are trained with commands such as ‘move up’ and ‘whoa’
The archbishop even led the group in prayer.
“Lord, we need a little Christmas. Whatever faith we have, even if we don’t, our hearts long for warmth, love, peace and reconciliation. Christmas can bring that and will we ever need it,” he said.
The animals traditionally come from Hedrick’s Exotic Animal Farm in Kansas.
But how do the show’s producers know which creatures are suitable for appearing?
“We don’t try them all out in the theater,” farm owner Joe Hedrick explained in a 2005 interview with the Chicago Tribune.
Instead, they take the animals’ personalities into account.
“We know that some camels prefer to work outside and we have to take their character and attitude into account,” Hedrick said.
“There was padding under the floor for a year and one of the camels was cautious, like someone on ice, when she walked on it, so she couldn’t exercise.”
The animals are trained with signals such as ‘up’ and ‘whoa’.
The animals were led through the streets of Manhattan by their handlers
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 have, even if we don’t, our hearts long for warmth, love, peace and reconciliation.”
In addition to the living nativity scene, the show includes a song called Dance of the Frost Fairy that uses drones
The Christmas show has been performed to more than 70 million people since 1933
Since opening in Radio City in 1933, the show has played to an audience of more than 70 million people.
Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. produces the show, which is presented by QVC.
Tickets start at $49 and can be purchased online.
“It’s definitely the tradition,” said dancer Paige McRae 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.”