The holidays will undoubtedly look a bit different this year, but just like most special moments during the pandemic, there are still ways to celebrate. From drive-through light shows and massive glowing lantern festivals to curling and ice-skating, there are plenty of fun and safe ways to get in the holiday spirit. Ahead, we’ve rounded up nearly 20 of the year’s best events in and around New York City.
A Christmas tree market in front of the Barclay Street Station circa 1895. Photo via the Library of Congress
The convenience of walking to the corner bodega and haggling for a Christmas tree is something most of us take for granted, but this seasonal industry is one that actually predates Christmas’ 1870 establishment as a national holiday and continues to be a one-of-a-kind business model today. In fact, in 1851, a tree stand set up for $1 at the west side’s Washington Market became the nation’s very first public Christmas tree market, the impetus behind it being a way to save New Yorkers a trip out of town to chop down their own trees. Ahead, find out the full history of this now-national trend and how it’s evolved over the years.
The 1931 tree, courtesy of Tishman Speyer
The official website of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree describes the holiday tree as a “world-wide symbol of Christmas,” a statement we really can’t argue with, especially since 125 million people visit the attraction each year. And with tonight marking the 88th Tree Lighting, we decided to take a look back at the tradition’s history. 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, there’s no shortage of interesting tidbits about one of NYC’s biggest attractions.
Photo courtesy of The Salvation Army Greater New York Division
With the need for support services at an all-time high coupled with a lack of foot traffic at retail stores due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Salvation Army has had to think outside the kettle this holiday season. While typically the charity group relies on its bell-ringers stationed outside of stores with red kettles to raise money for those in need, this year the Salvation Army is calling for digital donations. To bring attention to its online fundraising campaign, the group unveiled on Tuesday a giant 32-foot red kettle in Times Square.
All photos courtesy of Eugene Gologursky/ Getty Images
The first department store in New York City to ever display holiday windows continued its long-standing tradition this week. Macy’s on Thursday unveiled its 2020 holiday windows at its flagship Herald Square store with the theme “Give, Love, Believe.” According to the store, the windows are a tribute to the city’s frontline workers who have worked tirelessly throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Photo: NYC Parks / D. Avila
Not quite sure how to get rid of that Christmas Tree? From December 26 to January 11, NYC will be hosting its annual Mulchfest so that you can recycle your tree at a local park. With 67 total drop-off sites throughout the five boroughs—32 of which are chipping sites—it’s easier than ever to get your tree turned into mulch that will be used to help nourish trees and plants across the city.
Image of the first Christmas tree in City Hall park in 1913; via Library of Congress
In 1912, the nation’s first public Christmas tree went up in Madison Square Park and sparked a new trend that would soon spread to parks across the city and beyond. The following year, acting Mayor Ardolph Kline initiated a similar tradition when he asked a young boy to help him light a Christmas tree in City Hall Park. By 1934, tree lighting celebrations became a citywide effort, with the Parks Department putting up 14 fifty-foot Norway Spruce trees throughout the city. Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia dedicated the trees from City Hall Park and broadcasted the ceremony to sites across the city.
Despite being the City That Never Sleeps, New York does close down a bit on Christmas Day, with all sorts of museums, shops, restaurants, and other businesses giving their staff a break for the holiday. But for those of us who do not celebrate or won’t be spending all of Christmas at home squabbling over politics with family, there’s still plenty to do in town, especially if you get a little creative. Here are seven great options.
All photos © James and Karla Murray
The city may have created additional pedestrian space around Rockefeller Center this year, but the throngs of tourists are still filling the streets around the Christmas tree and holiday windows. If you’d rather not deal with the crowds, photographers James and Karla Murray have captured the best of this year’s windows, from the magical “Frozen” themed light show at Saks Fifth Avenue to the artistic displays at Bergdorf Goodman. Ahead, see what’s on view this year and learn a bit more about what goes into creating these whimsical scenes.
A Christmas tree vendor in Manhattan is selling 20-foot Fraser firs for $6,500 each, most likely the most expensive evergreen in the city, the New York Post reported Sunday. Scott Lechner, the manager of Soho Trees, located near Canal Street, told the newspaper that the exorbitant prices aren’t slowing sales. “We’re sold out,” he said. The steep price tag includes delivery and installation.