I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
With so much emphasis placed on giving the perfect gift this season, it's wonderful to purchase something handmade—give yourself extra points if it was made locally or from recycled or repurposed materials. Yes, "green" giving will again take center stage this holiday season, and one of the best destination spots for getting your green on is in Union Square.
After the last farmers market tents have packed up for the season, in come the familiar red and white temporary boutiques—more that 100 of them—that make up the little artisan village that for the last 13 years has become the Union Square Holiday Market.
New and returning vendors gather their wears—handmade books, ceramics, leather goods, knits, candles, glass wear, prints, photographs, beads, bubbles, and everything in between—and offer them for sale in Union Square for the throngs of people who tramp through one of New York's busiest transportation hubs. The result is a dazzling and colorful array of wonderful keepsakes, all relatively bargain-priced. If that isn't enough, the outer banks of the market are flush with a variety of street artists who set up their own independent tables and sell original paintings, drawings, photographs, and other artsy goods. Many interior and outer vendors also take credit cards if your spree goes beyond the cash you have on hand.
Even if you didn't come to shop, the Union Square Holiday Market is a great place to meet friends over a warm cup of chai or hot chocolate. (Refreshments are usually for sale inside the village and in recent years have expanded to include hot soups, warm bread, and delicious cookies!) You can literally feel yourself getting further drawn into the spirit of the season while you promenade through the maze of attractive handmade goods. If you're a crafter yourself, you might even get inspired to make your own gifts.
So, why not go green this year and skip the department stores in favor of something a little more original? Past vendors have sold hand-sewn bags made from recycled materials, hand-screened T-shirts, sterling sliver photo pendants, metal sculptures of cars and bicycles (made from recycled aluminum cans), beeswax candles, hand-knit sweaters, hats, and gloves, and only the most unique holiday ornaments. No matter if you come to browse or buy, the Union Square Holiday Market is a must-see holiday hotspot.