I grew up in a country where snow was not an option. The average temperature in Puerto Rico is 80 degrees 365 days of the year. As a kid, every Thanksgiving I would watch the Macys’ day parade on television with the hope that I would see on the television snow falling in New York City. I think every kid in San Juan wished for the same experience of wanting to feel the cold weather and those snowflakes softly touched your face.
Instead of having snow and the best parade in the world to start celebrating the Holidays, we had the closest thing possible; Gonzalez Padin Christmas windows. Every year a different holiday theme would take over the main window of the biggest department store in San Juan from 1969 to 1996.
So, the tradition was as follows. Growing up in San Juan during the early 70s every Friday night, during the month of December, my whole family would get in our dark green station wagon and head to Old San Juan. First, ice cream in Condado from Howards Johnson and from there we would get in the worst traffic jam possible seat in traffic as the whole Island would also be heading to Old San Juan to see the Christmas windows. We would eat our ice cream, make jokes, play games and sing in the car. As we got closer to the windows and the main plaza where the department store was located, you could feel the energy in the air. The Holiday music, the lights, the excitement grew and grew until the moment you were waiting for finally arrived. It was your turn to ride by the main window where all the magic happened.
It was an explosion of colors, music and dancing of beautiful moving dolls. Think of it as “Is a Small World” at Walt Disney World. They had dolls dressed in customes from around the world celebrating Christmas, or a typical Puerto Rican vignettes with the “lechon” and the dolls all sang Christmas carols and played instruments. O.M.G. your eyes just wanted to pop out from the excitement. You did not want to move. But there were cars behind you as my Dad would drive really slow so we all could absorb everything in about one minute of total bliss. By the time we got home we were all sound sleep from the excitement of the night.
Gonzalez Padin gave us Puerto Rican kids what Saks, Bergdorf, Macys gives to American kids. One store in Puerto Rico was committed to make something magical that was such a part of our Christmas traditions. Imprinted memories in my heart that every kid that grew up in Puerto Rico between the 70’ and 80” know exactly what I am talking about.
Three years ago I returned to my country with the vision of opening a home store. It became my personal mission to bring back the magic of the Holiday windows. Now on our third year celebrating the Holidays at Aaron Stewart Home my devotion and commitment to recreating that magical moment has become a reality. This year 6-foot Nutcrackers soldiers take guard in our windows surrounded by the softest stuffed animals and beautiful wrapped gifts with blue ribbons. The best part is that we bring magic every night by making it snow in our main window!
At Aaron Stewart Home we want to bring new memories and create new traditions for the kids of Puerto Rico. For families to unite and ride by our store and feel exactly what I felt when I was a young boy. We do it with so much love; we do it because we want to bring a world of fantasy and innocence to our young ones. I truly hope that everyone enjoys our falling snow in San Juan. We are already working on next year’s windows and creating memories and traditions for generations to come.