The Bryant Park Holiday Market

The Bryant Park Holiday Market


Neighborhood: West 40s
Type of Place: Markets


Navigating the Bryant Park holiday booths--as a worker or a shopper--struck me as similar to the broader experience of living in this city. It takes fortitude and a sense of humor. You'll meet people from all over, and many of them will be interesting. It will certainly not be easy all the time (or even most of the time), but it will be eventful, exciting, and sometimes beautiful. There will be amazing finds, and when you come upon them, you'll feel that you've made it from novice to native at last.

When I arrived at about 6:30 PM, the booths--though filled with workers, shoppers, and wares--were absolutely dark, as was the park's newly installed skating rink. Power to the whole area had, I was told, cut off moments before I arrived.
But resourcefulness ruled: At the first booth I approached, jeweler Susan Manley of Dazzle Studios ( was offering "10-percent discounts on anything you buy in the dark!"

Manley, a former New Yorker, explained that she now lives in an artists' co-op on the Massachusetts/Vermont border--but that she sells her work on Cape Cod in the summer and travels to Mexico in January, after the holiday rush. Her warmly pretty stained-glass jewelry starts at $20; she also sells great silver-wire baskets and ornaments (starting at $18) made by artist Cindy Luna, who lives in Hawaii--sturdily made, but so light that they seemed to be floating on the breeze.

OK, make that the stiff wind. Talk of Mexico and Hawaii pointed up one big fact: We were all freezing. Most of the Bryant Park booths are outside, and though many are equipped with space heaters, these were of course not working without the power. It was a cold night to begin with, and windchill did not help. I thought about how most vendors had already been standing out there for hours. I couldn't imagine how they'd managed it. Even working space heaters only do so much when up against New York in December.

As best I could in the dark, I made my way toward the indoor booths--and ended up stumbling into one selling clothing made from the coats of Arctic Muskoxen. From their brochure: "Qiviuk is the Inuvialuit [Canadian Arctic native] word for Down: the fine, inner, insulating blanket of the Canadian Arctic Muskox. Qiviuk is the softest, warmest, and most luxurious fiber in the world...."

Rejectors of the fur industry, don't be alarmed--I'm with you. This fiber is harvested from what the Muskoxen shed, as the climate in which they live is not amenable to animal shearing and, in any case, the species is not domestic. So actually, the sweaters and scarves and hats I was admiring were made from matter that had previously been blowing across the tundra. The merchant explained that the Muskox's coat had enabled it to survive the last Ice Age. Uncertain of my ability to deal with this one cold night in Midtown, I was suitably impressed.

"This really is the warmest and the lightest..." the merchant said; and as if hearing him, the lights and heaters turned back on. Certainly, the light helped in seeing the items more clearly. But the heaters--well, the best I can say is, it was worse without them. Honestly, though, the Qiviuk clothing was gorgeous and light. And that Ice Age thing is a pretty good reason to consider ordering six of everything (

At HQC Jewelry, the designers--a couple from China--explained that they'd been merchandise by hand since June in preparation for this market. I admired their designs and their very reasonable prices (starting at $10). At Monkey Business, which offers hand-carved, hand-painted sculptures and ornaments from Indonesia (starting at 2 for $5), the vendor and I could only laugh as wind whipped through the booth. I bought two ornaments for a weekend tree-trimming party and assured her that at least closing time was drawing near.

At almost the end of my exploration, something that will change your holiday shopping experience. 3 words: Mon Ami Truffles. The Mon Ami vendor, who works with the chocolate's importer, explained that they're made in a town on the border of Spain and France and have adhered to the same family recipe since 1814. Samples were available, and with trembling hands, I took one. "Don't chew," he instructed. "Let it melt in your mouth." Could anything really melt out there?! But I listened, and in a moment my mouth was filled with some truly chocolate for which "exquisite" would not be an overstatement. And--ready for this?--a box of 30 truffles costs...$6. That's not a misprint. They're classic, they're of superior quality, they're delicious, and they cost $6. Go get them. Not only did I buy these, but I alerted several other shoppers to them, and after tasting, they all bought some. (If getting to Bryant Park is difficult, you can call International Gold Star Trading to see where they're sold near you: 718-522-1545.)

At CC Jewelry (, the beautiful display stopped me even as I was planning to dash off toward the subway. Designer Ariadna Correa Calleja's work in recycled copper, enamel, and glass, starting at $20, was lovely enough to bring a smile to my chilly face--and Ariadna herself was gracious and relaxed, as if the wind were sparing her somehow. (Maybe she was wearing Qiviuk items under her coat?)

Last up: The Wonder Warmers booth (, where I discovered their amazing product: pillows of varying sizes that, when activated, heat to toasty within seconds (you have to feel it to believe it, though a look at the website will make things clearer). One for each coat pocket in winter could be an enormous help. The vendors here--two good-natured young guys to whom crowds, understandably, were flocking--said that some of their best customers were the fair's other vendors (also understandable). I clutched a sample-size Warmer in my hands; if it had been for sale, no way would I have ever have put it down.

To recap: If you're going to shop at Bryant Park, wear layers. Don't forget your hat, gloves, or scarf. Have fun chatting with the vendors--folks from everywhere, unified by their  remarkable good cheer in rough weather. Have lots of respect for the hand craftsmanship necessary to create most of the merchandise, and the ingenuity behind all of it. And if you buy (and surely you'll find something you're looking for, or just something you love), make sure to get the item's history; the story behind a gift is a wonderful part of the giving. Happy holidays.

  - Pamela Grossman

The Bryant Park Holiday Market
42nd Street at Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
(212) 768-4242
Map Hours: