A Visit to the Union Square Holiday Market in NYC

 Union Square Holiday Market, NYC | © Nikki Vargas/Culture Trip
Union Square Holiday Market, NYC | © Nikki Vargas/Culture Trip
Photo of Nikki Vargas
Travel Editor1 December 2017

Each winter, New York City becomes just a little bit fairer as twinkling lights are strung high above the avenues, the 75-foot tall Rockefeller tree is ceremoniously lit, and the telltale red and white striped tents of holiday markets begin to pop up.
Of the many holiday markets to spring up around NYC—from the quaint Winter Village in Bryant Park to the charming Holiday Fair in Grand Central—it is the Union Square Holiday Market that continues to be an internationally renowned treasure for New Yorkers and tourists alike.

USQ Holiday Market | © Nikki Vargas/Culture Trip

Taking place this year from November 16 until December 24, the Union Square Holiday Market brings together local vendors, craftsman and artisans to display and sell their unique goods. Set up like a veritable maze of garland lined stalls, the holiday market sells everything from Turkish ceramics to homemade apple cider donuts from upstate New York. Recently, Culture Trip took a trip to the Union Square Holiday Market to spotlight three vendors whose handmade products are internationally inspired and support larger causes.

Turkish ceramics from TribalHome

Tribal Home at the Union Square Holiday Market | © Nikki Vargas/Culture Trip

Every year, there is just one stand that inevitably catches the eye whenever one peruses the stalls of the Union Square Holiday Market: TribalHome. Emanating color from the heart of the market, TribalHome’s delicate lamps and intricate mosaics feel as though one has stumbled on a colorful marketplace in Istanbul rather than the heart of New York City.

Alphan Atila of Tribal Home | © Nikki Vargas/Culture Trip

TribalHome’s colorful array of mosaic lamps and ceramics are traditionally handcrafted and painted, lending each item a certain authenticity not found elsewhere.

Fair trade gifts at Marquet

Marquet | © Nikki Vargas/Culture Trip

There is a certain allure about handcrafted items that hail from far flung countries; an exoticism to that delicate necklace or knit scarf that isn’t found at other chain stores. At Marquet, everything sold promotes fair trade, in which fair prices are paid to artisans in third world countries—in this case Vietnam and Thailand. In other words, these gifts give back to global causes.

Handwoven scarves sold by Marquet are crafted by the Binh Minh collective in Northern Vietnam, where 20 families operate 25 looms to create up to 5,000 scarves per month. Likewise, textiles are crafted by the Ton Fai group in Thailand, who use a traditional style of weaving. Jewelry sold by Marquet originates from the Akha people who are an indigenous tribe scattered throughout Southeast Asia, which Marquet works with to provide over a hundred employment opportunities.

Nomi Network

Nomi Network Stand at the USQ Holiday Market | © Nikki Vargas/Culture Trip

It’s a brilliant handwoven blue necklace that first catches the eye when walking by the Nomi Network stall, then a simple white sign that reads, “All products are made by survivors and women at risk of human trafficking.” It’s immediately clear there’s a story here at Nomi Network, and it all begins with an eight-year-old human trafficking survivor, for which the brand is named for.

Co-founders Diana Mao and Alissa Moore met young Nomi while traveling in Cambodia back in 2008. Growing up in a rural village, Nomi had been subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of multiple men before moving to a special needs shelter with eight other girls. Today, Nomi is the epitome of survival, having grown into a beautiful woman who does not let the physical and emotional scars of her past define her future.

Nomi Network Stand at the USQ Holiday Market | © Nikki Vargas/Culture Trip

Nomi’s story of strife and survival inspired Nomi Network, which has a mission to “create economic opportunities for survivors and women at risk of human trafficking by equipping them with leadership, entrepreneurship, and production skills to become financially independent.” All products sold by Nomi Network are made by at-risk women and human trafficking survivors.

The Union Square Holiday Market is the perfect spot to pick up a unique holiday gift, while also losing oneself to the irresistible feeling of the holiday season. Donning a knit cap, enjoy walking among the red and white stalls with a cup of hot chocolate or warm pear apple cider in hand as the sound of Christmas carols mingle with the city soundtrack of New York.

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