5 Hot New Holiday Markets In New York City

new york city holiday market

Come December, New York City becomes a veritable mecca of holiday shops, festivals and bazaars. Most tourists are familiar with the classic gift emporiums at Grand Central, Bryant Park and Union Square. But those markets tend to turn off the newer, younger, more independent brands with their hefty vendor fees and multi-week commitments.

For a different scene, check out some of the city’s newer holiday markets, which offer food, drinks, workshops, art exhibitions and, of course, innumerable gift ideas from some of the city’s hottest up-and-coming brands. Here are five of the most buzz-worthy.

The Brooklyn Night Bazaar
The scene: A Williamsburg warehouse is transformed into a month-long hipster spectacular of art, music, food, drink and holiday shopping. Weekend nights feature concerts curated by Fader, Hype Machine, Gothamist and other musical tastemakers.
Gift ideas: Handprinted iPhone cases from Blissful Case, artisan soaps from Ebb & Flow, reclaimed wooden cutting boards from Grain.
When: Fridays and Saturdays, November 23 to December 22, 6 p.m. to midnight
Where: 45 N. 5th St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Admission: FreeGIVE GOOD Market*
The scene: A two-day market featuring close to 40 socially conscious businesses owned by women, along with a full lineup of DIY craft workshops, film screenings, musical performances, art exhibitions and a panel on the role of entrepreneurship in women’s empowerment.
Gift ideas: Reclaimed leather handbags from Shannon South, contemporary cow horn jewelry from Kora, hand-knitted hoop scarves from Indego Africa.
When: November 30 to December 1, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Starrett Lehigh Building, 601 W. 26th St., Chelsea, Manhattan
Admission: Free

Bust Magazine Holiday Craftacular and Food Fair
The scene: A kick-ass selection of more than 200 vendors, selling handmade craft items, artisan foods and craft beers over two days. Arrive early; the first 300 shoppers each day get a free goodie bag.
Gift ideas: Artisan cosmetics from The Elixery, shibori-dyed pillows from Eighty8Percent, Hipster Bingo.
When: December 1 to 2, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: 82 Mercer St., SoHo, Manhattan
Admission: $3

Hester Holiday Market
The scene: More than 40 gift and food vendors take over a historic Nolita building in this holiday shopping event from the organizers of the Hester Street Fair. Opening day on December 1 will feature a tree-lighting ceremony, animated light show and Christmas carolers.
Gift ideas: Upcycled charm bracelets from Tillydoro, handprinted socks from Strathcona Stockings, hand-blended looseleaf teas from Not Just Tea.
When: December 1 to 2, 8 to 9, and 15-23, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: 233 Mott St., Nolita, Manhattan
Admission: Free

Brooklyn Craft Central Annual Holiday Market
The scene: This two-weekend event features a curated selection of (mostly) Brooklyn-based crafters and designers. Holiday cocktails and spicy pupusas will also be on tap.
Gift ideas: Hardwood wine holders from Gowanus Furniture, quirky tees from The Fencing & Archery Printing Co., whimsical jewelry from Virginie Millefiori
When: December 15 to 16 and 22 to 23, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Littlefield Art Space, 622 DeGraw St., Park Slope/Gowanus, Brooklyn
Admission: Free

*Disclaimer: The author of this post is on the organizing committee for this event – another reason to check it out!

[Photo Courtesy: Brooklyn Night Bazaar on Facebook]

Cirque Dreams Travels The Country, Tours Military Bases Worldwide

cirque dreams

The first-ever Cirque Dreams World Tour performed at 17 U.S. military bases throughout ten countries in January. Now, Cirque Dreams Holidaze promises to light up the 2012 holiday season transforming stages at five military bases in Korea and across the United States into a magical holiday wonderland.

This is not your mother’s Christmas pageant either. The traditional elements are there but that’s about where tradition ends. Gingerbread men flip in mid air and toy soldiers march on thin wires. Snowmen, icemen, penguins, Christmas tree ornaments and dancing puppets all come to life to an original music score.

Honoring tradition, seasonal favorites accompany hundreds of astonishing costumes and holiday dreams in a setting of gigantic gifts, colossal candy canes and 30-foot towering soldiers creating a wonderland of spectacle.

Fans won’t have to travel far to see the international cast of multi-talented and brilliantly costumed artists come to life and perform astonishing feats of disbelief.

The Cirque Dreams Holidaze U.S. tour begins on November 13 in Abilene, Texas, then travels up the West Coast, down through the Midwest, into the South and ends in Schenectady, New York, on December 30.

Here’s a preview:

Cirque Dreams’ stable of popular shows include Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, Cirque Dreams Illumination, Cirque Dreams & Dinner onboard Norwegian Epic and upcoming Norwegian Breakaway, Cirque Dreams Rocks, and Cirque Dreams Holidaze, now in its fourth consecutive touring season and success from The Kennedy Center.

[Photo Credit: Cirque Productions]

Send a holiday greeting from above the clouds

holiday greeting

Procrastinated on sending Christmas cards this year? It’s not too late to send a holiday greeting to say “Happy New Year” (or Mutlu Yillar in Turkish) with a travel theme. Turkish Airlines has a fun website for generating a virtual holiday greeting with a view of the wing. On Above the Clouds, you can choose a cloud image like a snowflake, Christmas tree, or angel and add a brief message (limited to 40 characters), accompanied by a jaunty version of Turkish Airlines’ theme song, and it will generate an e-card from your window seat.

Make your own greeting at www.newyearclouds.com and Happy New Year!

Museum of European Cultures reopens in Berlin

Berlin, PerchtenThe Museum of European Cultures has reopened after a two-year renovation.

Located in Berlin, this museum focuses on the life of the common people of old Europe. While most museums focus on the famous accomplishments of the elite, this one looks at the everyday lives and traditions of regular people so often forgotten by the history books. Folklore museums can be found all over Europe and make for fascinating visits. With a collection of some 27,000 objects, the Museum of European Cultures is one of the largest.

The latest temporary exhibition is of the paintings of Wilhelm Kiesewetter, who traveled across Europe 150 years ago to paint the traditional costumes and lives of various ethnic groups. There’s also a study collection of old toys.

While many of the costumes and artifacts on display are now only museum pieces, some traditions have survived. One of the stranger ones takes place in the Alps over the Christmas season-the Perchten processions. Perchta is an old pagan goddess who was never quite suppressed by Christianity. She can appear as a beautiful maiden or an old crone and has single huge swan’s foot. She roams the countryside during the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany, checking to see if children and servants had been good and done their work. The good ones are rewarded with a silver coin in their shoe, while the bad ones get gutted and stuffed with straw.

Her entourage, called Perchten, includes glittering animal figures that bring luck and ugly critters like this one to scare away evil spirits.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Locked up Abroad: It’s only Christmas, why are the shops closed?

I’d never seen such a long line at a supermarket in my life. It was December 22, 2006 and I was hoping to buy a few items at a chain supermarket in Vienna, Austria. After waiting in line for about 15 minutes, it was almost my turn. But then an announcement was made, in German, the lights were dimmed and the people behind me in line dispersed- some left their items in their baskets, others took the time to replace their groceries on the shelves.

“Veer closed now,” said the cashier, in English, sensing my confusion.

“But can’t I pay for my things?” I asked, hopefully.

“We close at six,” she said, pointing to a clock which proved that it was exactly six o’clock.

“Do you know if there are any other grocery stores in the area that are open?” I asked.

“Oh no,” she said. “Everything will be closed until Wednesday.”

My wife and I had just arrived in Vienna for a four day weekend, and it was only Friday night. We assumed that the shops and museums would be open on Saturday and again on Tuesday. It turned out that the city was practically sealed shut for four full days. Some shops had limited hours on Saturday, December 23, but all were closed on Sunday and Monday, and again on Tuesday for St. Stephen’s Day.

Some restaurants remained open, but all the museums and other tourist attractions were closed. I didn’t actually mind that, but the real kicker was the fact that the streets were so eerily empty. Part of the joy of walking a great city like Vienna is the people watching, and the site of empty streets and shuttered storefronts was depressing. As Morrissey once crooned, “I want to see people and I want to see life.”

Fast forward to Christmas Day, 2011 in Falls Church, Virginia. I was about to make a sandwich from some leftover ham from our Christmas Eve meal and decided that some Swiss cheese would be the perfect complement to my lunch. I drove up the street from my house and found that both supermarkets we frequent were open. Not only that, but there were plenty of shoppers out and about. If the woman at the deli counter hadn’t wished me a Merry Christmas, it might have been just any other day.

I couldn’t help but think back to the four day lockdown in Vienna five years ago. Americans aren’t used to going even a full day with the shops closed, how would they cope with a four consecutive day shutdown? On Friday night, impatient shoppers hoping to buy Air Jordan sneakers were so eager to get into the shops that many rioted in cities across the country. Imagine the mayhem if the U.S. were to suddenly adopt European-style labor laws which mandated store closings for public holidays.

As a traveler, public holidays can be both a blessing and a curse. Having an opportunity to see how people celebrate various holidays in other parts of the world can be priceless, but walking empty streets for days on end is obviously a drag. As Americans, we’re used to being able to satisfy almost any passing fancy, even if it strikes us on Christmas day. That impulse is very hard to shake, no matter how long you live outside the U.S.

How do Americans cope with holiday shopping hours in other less consumer driven parts of the world? Some choose to bitch; others slow down and figure out how to go native. I’m caught somewhere in between, but I have to admit, my ham and Swiss cheese sandwich tasted awfully good.

[flickr image via Kevin Dooley]