To walk Fifth Avenue north from 34th Street to Central Park this season is to discover a startling paucity of merchants making more than a token nod to the holidays in their window displays. Never mind elves or Santa or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Barely a snowflake is to be found at mass-market retailers like Zara, the North Face, Urban Outfitters, Uniqlo, Fossil, Tommy Bahama, Oakley, Guess, Desigual, Sephora or H&M. This stark absence underscores both a shift in consumer patterns and the precious anachronism of what few holiday windows remain. Extravagant, giddy, gaudy, mechanized, jewel-like, politically pointed or merely kitsch, the windows staged each year by Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York, Tiffany & Company and Bloomingdale’s have long been among New York’s treasures. “They’re a great gift to the city,” said Sheryll Bellman, the author of “Through the Shopping Glass: A Century of New York Christmas Windows.” “Window-shopping is still one of the great free things you can do in New York and one of the few you can participate in without being judged,” Ms. Bellman added of a tradition said to have been pioneered locally by Macy’s as early as the 1870s. Whether an average consumer would actually be brave enough to cross the threshold of department stores selling stuff like a $3,500 Sylvie bag from Gucci or $800 suede Alexander Wang Tia pumps, any pedestrian can press nose to windowpane. And on peak days, as many as half a million people have been counted making their way past the holiday windows at Saks Fifth Avenue. Read more at The New York Times.