Essay by LinDa Saphan and Kevin Cabrera

New York City has borne more than its fair share of trauma in the last 20 years. But traumas like the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 have revealed both the city’s toughness and its sociable, almost small-town side—exemplified in the Christmas tree subculture that is as much a part of holidays in New York as adorned shop windows on Fifth Avenue. Like Christmas, the vendors come every year. And in this pandemic year, particularly, they remain essential hubs of safe community contact, counteracting forced isolation. Since the end of the first COVID-19 wave, New York has been reinventing itself in creative ways—for instance, in the way it has created beautiful outdoor dining settings. The annual ritual of welcoming tree vendors, buying a tree, and carting it home in the cold should buck up New Yorkers as they celebrate the symbols—and substance—of their survivorship and goodwill.

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