From the time Santa rides into town on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float, New York City is flooded with the Christmas spirit. Cute Santa Clause and toy soldier displays appear in shop windows. Colorful decorations energize the streets from Manhattan to Queens with New York-style Christmas trimmings. The Holiday Market, located in Union Square, is a perfect example of how New York City gets its groove on during Yuletide time. We came across the Holiday Market last year during our trip to Strand Bookstore, which is only a short stroll away from Union Square. The vendors were closing shop for the night, so we didn’t get to explore the area thoroughly. The plan was to go back before we went home to Indiana, but we never got around to making a return trip to Union Square.
Rooster and I were overjoyed when Richard and Chris informed us their appointment was a few blocks down the street from the Holiday Market. It made Richard happy we were excited about strolling through the booths in a spot where he could find us once his business was finished. He was very paranoid about his elderly visitors getting lost in the Big Apple. Our son’s anxiety increased when his dad encountered the free hug scam outside the Holiday Market. The guy offered free hugs, but the picture cost us a dollar. The last thing Richard said before he left us was, “Dad, don’t give anyone any money. Don’t even take out your wallet” My husband promised he wouldn’t, but we had to break that vow once we started shopping in the Holiday Market.
We decided to get off our feet for a few minutes before we tackled the crowd inside the Holiday Market. There were benches in Union Square where we could sit down for a minute to people watch. It turned out there were more pigeons than humans occupying this small square of New York City real estate. They weren’t happy with Rooster and me invading their territory, especially since we hadn’t brought anything to feed them for lunch. The bench we found was comfortable and free from pigeon droppings. We spent a relaxing few minutes watching the time tick away on the massive digital artwork called “The Passage” attached to the building across the street from where we sat on the iron bench. This gigantic expression of the passage of time was created by Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel. This piece of electrifying art includes several sections. I knew I was in the right place when I spotted chickens among the clutter. The most noticeable is a round circular void where steam escapes through periodically during the day. This whole is surrounded by a pattern of circles, which extend outward throughout the piece. There is a long pole inserted into the middle of the top of the rings and an iron hand placed above the void. Boulders are affixed at the bottom of the sculpture. The digital numbers reflect the passage of time in hours, minutes, seconds, and even military time. Rooster and I concluded we passed enough minutes lollygagging. We needed to get back up on our feet if we were going to see everything the Holiday Market had to offer.
This upscale place where local artists and vendors display their wares was a stark contrast to the Bushwick Market, we visited a few days earlier. This place is neat and tidy. Union Square was first named Union Place. It was a potter’s field graveyard where unidentified bodies were laid to rest until 1831. By the 1870s, it was one of the city’s most notable parks. The first-ever American Labor Day rally took place in Union Square in September of 1882. This demonstration set the stage for the park, becoming the epicenter for protest activity in New York City. There is a year-round greenmarket at the back of the park. Rooster and I visited the farmer’s market-style section of the park where produce is sold during our journey through the narrow lanes, which were lined with vendors and artists selling their wares to a massive throng of Christmas shoppers.
There were so many booths; it was impossible to see everything. The massive crowd of people trying to find the perfect Christmas gift made shopping difficult. At one point, I even imagined I saw Mohandas Gandhi mingling with the throng of holiday shoppers. A giant statue of George Washington on horseback towered over the holiday consumers. For the weary shopper wanting to make an escape, a subway stop has been strategically placed in the center of Union Square. What more could a person ask for?
Rooster and I meandered down the narrow path, dodging other holiday shoppers. We found so many fascinating things it is hard to remember all of them. What I was able to capture was a booth selling New York City street signs, a pink lady, a few chickens in the crowd of merchandise. A lot of cats, and an exciting lighting display, and photographs were done in black and white. The most noteworthy item for sale we found at a booth ran by a young man named Abel. He took black and white photos and glued them onto vinyl records. You can look at a unique photograph on one side and play the music recorded on the other side of the wax. We found the pictures so dramatic and the concept so ingenious we purchased one of these pieces of art for Chris and Richard.
We strolled through the Holiday Market until we thought we’d seen everything twice. There was still a little time left before Richard and Chris would be finished with their appointment. We spotted a Starbucks across the street and decided it would be a superb place to get warm. Rooster went to get coffee. I decided now would be a good time for a restroom break. There was a long line. This place didn’t have a men’s and women’s restroom. Both genders had to wait in a long line to use the lavatory. I thought it was about time for men to suffer the same inconvenience the rest of humanity endues regularly.
Richard call as Rooster handed me the coffee he’d purchased. It was perfect timing. Chris suggested we travel to the East Village and eat at a Ukrainian restaurant he’d just heard about. We all agreed it would be the perfect way to end another exciting day in New York City.
The East Village was a trendy neighborhood where even the streetlight poles became a work of art. It is the home of NYU. We discovered several shops that sold vintage goods while we waited to get a seat at the restaurant. There weren’t any shortages of places to eat in this section of New York City. We saw places where one restaurant was located on top of another. The meal we had at Veselka was worth the wait. Rooster and I had the Ukrainian meatballs. We both thought they were delicious. They were different from the Italian and Swedish variety we’ve ordered in restaurants in Indiana. There is little chance to experience a Ukrainian meal anywhere in Indiana. That is what is so fantastic about New York City. It is a real melting pot. It allows a person to experience the best of the cultures people bring with them from other lands. If you are ever in New York City and are hungry for Ukrainian food, stop by 144 Second Street in the East Village. The dining experience is worth the subway ride. While you are there, you can meander down the streets of the quaint East Village neighborhood and explore the many shops. You never know when you might come across a real gem. Many of these stores sell unique items you won’t find in a more traditional establishment.