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'How Do They Do It?': Holiday Window Displays Become More Interactive, Social Media-Friendly

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- While holiday shopping may not be for the faint of heart, just heading to the stores may do your heart good.

The beauty and imagination of store windows has become an important part of how we celebrate the season.

Holiday window unveilings, which generally take place in late November, are nothing short of major happenings.

And when it comes to holiday windows, Macy's has been at it the longest -- since the 1870's. Their goal then, as now, always been the same.

"That kind of wow moment when the customer walks by and say 'how do they do that?'" said Roya Sullivan, Macy's national window director.

Sullivan says planning starts in January and an army of window elves set to work in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The actual window takes about to two weeks to install.

This year, it was all about the interactive. A scratch on a pup's nose begets a scratch of a hind quarter.

And there are lots social media opportunities.

"Being able to play with the window, taking a selfie of yourself and then appearing in the window," said Sullivan.

Yes, your face in a Macy's window.

The most wonderful time of the year is an edict taken very seriously here.

"It's absolutely essential for us to recreate this every year," Sullivan said.

The exterior of the retail giant Saks Fifth Avenue shimmers nightly with more than 600,000 points of light, all programmed to music. As for the windows, the theme this year was Frozen, ushered in with an elaborate live performance. But the story in the windows lies beyond the characters, to the very creation of the pieces that make it up.

"I would say a hundred people touch this from start to finish," said Eva Maravelias, a vice president of visual at Saks.

Maravelias gave us a tour of the giant Queens workshop where it all comes together.

"You have lighting designers, you have artisans making the actual props, you have creatives conceptualizing what the spaces are going to look like," she said.

It takes months to pull it all together, but for this iconic street show, it's worth it.

"You see the light show start up and you immediately make a B line," she said.

Inside Hudson Yards, Neiman Marcus, new to New York's retail scene, faced an interesting challenge with their holiday display.

"We don't have that ground floor access so we were faced with the dilemma of how do we create that New York City magical window experience without having that window opportunity this is really how it translated," said company spokesperson Kerri Larkin.

She showed off the store's over the top dinner party motif that's just inside the entrance. A table and party-goers painstakingly set for the holidays, waiting for the inevitable social media, with fashion, food and home decor.

"It should be fun, it should be whimsical and creating a scene like this and inviting people to come in and be part of it, we feel really marries those two things." Larkin said.

So whether your nose is pressed to the glass out on the street, or you're up close and personal with the display, this all takes holiday window shopping to a whole new level.

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