New Yorkers love to decorate for the holidays. People string colored lights on their windows and fire escapes. You see fanciful, sparkly wreaths on apartment doors. And, yes, we are known to cram real live evergreens into our tiny living spaces to have that most coveted of all holiday decorations–a Christmas Tree.
But where do we get those Christmas trees, you might ask? Surely we don’t rent trucks to lug them all the way from farms upstate. No! We get them from one of the many sidewalk vendors who materialize right around Thanksgiving and stay open until Christmas Eve.
These vendors are open 24 hours a day for the time they are in the city. In addition to trees they sell wreaths and other decorations like reindeer carved from discarded branches. Usually each vendor has a large inflatable Santa or snowman decorating their stand.
The most trusted origin story of the sidewalk tree vendors begins all the way back in 1851 when a Catskill landowner named Mark Carr saw a business opportunity in the fairly new Christmas tree tradition, and two weeks before Christmas he and his sons cut down a couple dozen fir and spruce trees and loaded them onto two ox sleds and brought them to Manhattan. He set up shop on the corner of Greenwich and Vesey Streets and sold out his stock the very first day.
People temporarily move to the city from all over for about a month to work as Christmas tree vendors. Here is one of my favorite stories about a family from Alaska who’ve followed this tradition for over twenty years.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post about sidewalk Christmas trees in NYC. Don’t miss my recent blog post about with dozens of photos of this year’s department store holiday windows!