Holiday Happenings in Midtown

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People Tree

Hundreds of people watched the tree-lighting through the raindrops. Photo: Carly MacLeod.

Vanderbilt Hall Holiday Fair

If you’re searching for graphic tees, a sweater for your dog, silk throw pillows or chandeliers made with antique crystals, the Vanderbilt Hall Holiday Fair may suit your tastes. The fair features 76 vendors in Grand Central Terminal through Dec. 24.

Designer Karen Curtis is celebrating her boutique’s eighth consecutive year at the fair. She uses vintage Swarovski crystals to craft colorful bracelets, necklaces, earrings and even lighting fixtures.

“It was only a natural progression, chandelier earrings to actual chandeliers,” she joked.

For Curtis, the history of Grand Central Station and its dependable stream of tourists made it a great location. The recession hasn’t affected business, she said. “It’s the best holiday spot there can be … It’s like a little storefront for the month-and-half.”

But there’s another reason she keeps returning to Vanderbilt Hall. Three years ago, Curtis met glass artist Aaron Niemczyk when they were both running boutiques at the holiday fair. They started designing together in 2009 and married last June. Today, they run Curtis’s store together.

“That doesn’t happen very often,” she added, “to meet a husband at the fair.”


Madison Square Park Christmas Tree Lighting

Holiday spirit was going strong on Tuesday night for Madison Square Park’s 99th Tree Lighting ceremony. People crowded under shared umbrellas and tents for the nearly century-old New York City tradition. The 30-foot tall Fraser Fir tree glowed with more than 2,000 multi-colored lights. Before the tree was lit, the park staff entertained guests with live Christmas carols and free gingerbread decorating, both of which stayed dry under one of the park’s many white tents as the rain poured down.

“The weather doesn’t affect us,” said Bertie Downs, the park’s special events manager, as she stood under a tent giving away free cider. “Our regulars will come. They’ve supported us through rain, heat and snow.”

On a normal year, Downs said, they expect from 800 to 1,000 people, but she was still optimistic that even on Tuesday’s rainy evening, between 500 to 800 people would show.

“If I were walking home and saw this, I’d definitely stop,” she said. “If you’re looking for something to do, this is fun, and free! And it’s beautiful.”


Union Square and Columbus Circle Holiday Markets

Wooden booths line up side by side.  Garlands festoon the areas as shoppers wind their ways in between stalls, looking at jewelry, hats, scarves, journals, bags and treats.  The holiday markets located at Union Square and Columbus Circle are mirror images of one another; many of the goods that you see at one show up at the other.  Even so, many shoppers still attend both.

If you want a hat, these fairs are good places to find one.  A plethora of furry and animal-shaped hats are for sale.  If you’re working on a budget, though, you may want to look somewhere else; most of them sell for $30 or more.  And if you miss the one you wanted at Columbus Circle, don’t worry.  You can surely find the same exact furry white hat at Union Square.

Yet these fairs don’t just have hats.  They also have jewelry; lots and lots of jewelry.  You can find everything from glass to gold at the two fairs.  In fact, an overwhelming amount of stalls seem to be devoted to these particular shining ornaments.  Though if you look closely, you can find that silver necklace with a magnifying glass for a charm in Union Square as well as Columbus Circle.

Even so, most shoppers seem to be content with the fairs.  A word of warning, though; just attend one.  After all, it’s no fun to go to the same market twice.