Christmas in New York City

New York has been the setting for many Christmas stories, fables, and traditions. In 1897, eight-year-old Virginia Hanson of 115 West 95th Street wrote to the editor of The Sun, asking if Santa Claus was real. The movie Miracle on 34th Street featured a man named Kris Kringle who began working as Santa Claus during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor, Barneys New York, Bloomingdales, Macy’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue attract countless New Yorkers and visitors with their engaging holiday window displays. Here we take a look back at some of the many ways New York has celebrated Christmas.

This picture shows teachers and students gathered around a Christmas tree in a tenement house run by a chapter of the International Order of The King’s Daughters and Sons. Margaret Bottome founded this charitable organization in her New York City home in 1886. The photo was taken around 1897.

Chicago Albumen Works. Jacob A. Riis. King's Daughters Tenement Chapter, Christmas tree in Gotham Court. Museum of the City of New York. 90.13.4.228

Jacob Riis took this photo around 1900. Riis, a first generation immigrant from Denmark, sought to improve the living conditions of impoverished New Yorkers by photographing their living conditions.

Jacob A. (Jacob Augustus) Riis. Christmas gifts at 48 Henry Street. Museum of the City of New York. 90.13.1.386

Although this photo was taken about 100 years ago, the hustle and bustle of New York’s streets during the holiday shopping season remains the same.

Thomas H. McAllister. Christmas shoppers. Museum of the City of New York Photo Archives. X2010.11.8795

The Salvation Army began using red kettles in 1891 to collect money during the holiday season. In 1901, contributions to the red kettles in New York City provided the poor with a massive sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden.  This 1906 photo shows a scene familiar to New Yorkers even today.

Byron Company. Charities, Salvation Army Christmas Dinner Kettle. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.17268

The Union Settlement House was founded in 1895 to serve the people of East Harlem. By 1900, more than 3,000 people relied on its services. This photo of caroling children was taken around 1940.

Roy Perry. Union Settlement House, Neighborhood Children Rehearsing Christmas Carols. Museum of the City of New York. 80.102.73

The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is lit every year after Thanksgiving. This tradition began in 1933.

New York times. Christmas tree, Radio City. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.11.8800

Edward Ratcliff. Rockefeller Center at Christmas. Museum of the City of New York Photo Archives. X2010.11.8801

The Manhattan Savings Bank took a particularly festive approach to Christmas. These photos show the bank’s holiday spirit during the 1960s.

Wurts Bros. 45th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue. Manhattan Savings Bank, new branch, front view from east showing Christmas decorations. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.10288

Wurts Bros. 47th Street. Manhattan Savings Bank, Christmas show, ice skaters in. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.10208

Wurts Bros. 47th Street. Manhattan Savings Bank, general view of lobby looking N.E. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.10210

Wurts Bros. 45th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue. Manhattan Savings Bank, Christmas carolers. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.13752

2 responses to “Christmas in New York City

  1. Nice! I will forward this link to my friends at Union Settlement Association.

  2. I really enjoy reading this blog and looking at the photos you share! Thank you and I hope all of you have a Happy Holiday!

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