Want Harriet Tubman t-shirts? Mongolian Art? Literally anything? Check out Downtown Holiday Market


Annette Leber, Ruby Mason

As the weather grows colder, places all around DC begin to hang up lights and decorations in preparation for the holidays. DC’s Downtown Holiday Market returned for the 15th year in a row, centered at 8th and F Street right in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. 

The market features over 150 artists from all around the city, many selling unique DC items including t-shirts, posters, jewelry, and holiday decorations. There is a wide variety of vendors and activities, from products made entirely of chocolate to “decorate them yourself” donuts, along with live performances by local groups. 

Many of the vendors sell environmentally-friendly products, like vegan soaps and belts made of old tires, and most are handmade. Shumba Masani sells animals he makes out of aluminum cans. “I just got tired of taking out the trash one night and had to do something with all those empty beer cans I had laying around the house and decided to make a giraffe instead, and the rest is history,” he said. At another stand, Jimmy Mann, the CEO of Manmade Designs, creates jewelry, houseware, and sculptures out of plywood, silver, and recycled aluminum. 

One unique aspect of the market is how DC-centric it is. Many stands are run by DC natives and their products display DC pride. Hero Heads is a company where heroes including Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are sketched onto shirts, sweatshirts, and other items of clothing. If there is another hero that people think of that is not already on a shirt, they can put it in the suggestions journal, among Beyonce, Maya Angelou, and John F. Kennedy. 

Despite the high concentration of DC-related items, there are many products from different cultures, such as a churro and empanada stand, wrench-shaped chocolates and teapots from the UK, Incan scarves and ponchos made from alpaca wool, and traditional Mongolian art.

In addition to food and art, live musical performances also play at the market, with genres ranging from blues, jazz, hip-hop, rock, folk, to holiday a capella. Donna Fletcher, the entertainment coordinator, thought that the presence of the music added to the overall atmosphere and feeling of festivity. “I know that there are people who are drawn in part to the market not only from the crafts and the food but also because they know there is really good music,” she said. The Downtown DC Annual Holiday Market is a great part of festive DC culture around the holidays.