Ever the New Yorker, Santa catches the trolly to Bloomingdales! The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library, NYPL Digital Collections
Saint Nicholas arrived in New York with the Dutch and became the Patron Saint of New York City in the early 19th century, but Santa, as we know him, is a hometown boy. New York’s writers and artists were the first to depict the modern Santa Claus, transforming the figure of Dutch lore into a cheerful holiday hero. The illustrious Claus gained his sleigh in Chelsea and his red suit on Franklin Square. With a little help from the likes of Washington Irving, Clement Clarke Moore, and Thomas Nast, jolly old St. Nick became the merriest man in Manhattan.
More about Santa’s New York Roots!
The 1931 tree, courtesy of Tishman Speyer
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, considered the “worldwide symbol of Christmas,” will be lit on Wednesday, marking the 89th tree lighting ceremony. After last year’s event was closed to spectators because of the pandemic, the tree lighting will once again welcome the public to kick off the holiday season. Ahead of the event, learn about the history of the iconic spruce, from its start as a modest Depression-era pick-me-up for Rockefeller Center construction workers to World War regulations to its current 900-pound Swarovski star.
More on the history here
Hanukkah celebration by the Young Men’s Hebrew Association at the Academy of Music in New York City, 1880, via Wikimedia Commons
Hanukkah is engrained into New York’s holiday season, but roughly 100 years ago the Festival of Lights was big news to many New Yorkers. Look at the newspaper coverage back in the day regarding the holiday, and most “took an arms-length approach,” as Bowery Boys puts it. “More than one old Tribune or World carried a variant of the headline “Jews Celebrate Chanukah,” as though there might have been some doubt. A 1905 headline even informed readers that, “Chanukah, Commemorating Syrian Defeat, Lasts Eight Days.”
Such headlines weren’t just the result of ignorance–New York’s Jewish population was low through the 1800s, and even within the religion, Hanukkah has traditionally been a minor festival. But a boom in Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe and a reassertion of religious traditions in a new country completely changed the fabric of New York. Eventually, the eight-day festival of light–which commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks over 2,000 years ago–emerged as an important tradition of the city.
Here’s what happened
Photo via the Library of Congress
Before Thanksgiving became a holiday known for stuffing down food with the people you love, it looked a whole lot like Halloween. That is thanks to the Thanksgiving “ragamuffins,” children who dressed up in costume and wandered the streets in search of swag, asking passerby and shop owners, “Anything for Thanksgiving?” The practice could be found everywhere from Missouri to Los Angeles, but it was a particularly strong tradition in New York City.
“Thanksgiving masquerading has never been more universal,” said a New York Times report from 1899. “Fantastically garbed youngsters and their elders were on every corner of the city. Not a few of the maskers and mummers wore disguises that were recognized as typifying a well-known character or myth. There were Fausts, Uncle Sams, Harlequins, bandits, sailors. All had a great time. The good-humored crowd abroad was generous with pennies and nickels, and the candy stores did a land-office business.”
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Pilgrim balloon in 1946. Photo via Macy’s Inc.
There are many famous traditions synonymous with New York City, and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is at the top of that list. The first parade marched down Broadway in the winter of 1924, and in the years since, it’s grown into an event with more than 3.5 million spectators. After a television-only event last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is returning this year with in-person spectators. Ahead, learn all about the parade’s 97 years and see some incredible archival photos.
This way for the full history
Photo: NYC Parks/ Malcolm Pinckney
Hundreds of New Yorkers, mostly African and Native American residents, who were buried in Flushing at least 150 years ago were finally honored with a memorial this week. The city’s Parks Department and Queens officials on Tuesday cut the ribbon on a new commemorative plaza at the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground. The site, located north of 46th Avenue between 164th and 165th Streets, was used as a public burial ground starting as early as 1840, with over 1,000 individuals buried there until 1898. A new memorial wall includes the name of the sacred site, a brief history, and 318 recorded names of those buried there, and the new plaza has a butterfly garden and surrounding benches.
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Screenshot courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library
Discover the fictional places where novels are set and the real-life apartments where authors once lived as part of a new audio tour launched this month by the Brooklyn Public Library. The self-guided literary walking tour, which can be downloaded on your smartphone or opened via web browser, covers eight miles of the borough, from Fort Greene to Bushwick.
The lead female runners at 81st Street and 1st Avenue in 2015, photo © 6sqft
The world’s largest marathon takes place this Sunday, returning to the five boroughs after a pandemic hiatus last year. On November 7, the 50th New York City Marathon will look slightly different this year, bringing together roughly 33,000 runners, which is about 20,000 fewer participants than usual because of Covid-19. The marathon wasn’t always the largest in the world, however. Started by the New York Road Runners Club in 1970, the race began as a few loops around Central Park with just over 100 runners. But the passion of its founders, coupled with the spirit of the city, grew the marathon into a monumental event. In honor of the upcoming 2021 Marathon, 6sqft is taking a look back at the history of the race, its greatest moments, and what’s in store for this year.
All that right this way
Photo by Shinya Suzuki on Flickr
Described in 1967 by the Landmarks Preservation Commission as “one of Manhattan’s most picturesque architectural monuments,” the Highbridge Water Tower reopened on Wednesday following a restoration project. Located in Washington Heights, the octagonal tower opened in 1872 and served as part of the Croton Aqueduct system, helping increase water pressure throughout the borough. While it no longer is part of the city’s water system, the 200-foot landmark is the only one of its kind that remains today. The Parks Department also announced free public tours of the inside of the tower led by the department’s Urban Park Rangers will resume next month.
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The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “City Hall Subway Station, New York” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1906.
The Interborough Rapid Transit Subway, or IRT, was the first subway company ever in New York City. The company formed as a response to elevated train lines springing up around the city–it was time to go underground and build a rapid transit railroad to help combat street congestion and assist development in new areas of New York, according to NYCsubway.org. And so 117 years ago, on October 27, 1904, the first IRT subway line opened with the City Hall station as its showpiece. It’s no overstatement to say that after this date, the city would never be the same. And the day was one to remember, with pure excitement over the impressive feat of moving the city’s transit system underground.
Here’s what you need to know