125th St. BID’s 30th Anniversary Of Harlem Holiday Lights, NYC’s Only Parade Of Lights

November 6, 2023

The holiday energy in Harlem is bigger and brighter than ever this year as the 125th Street Business Improvement District (125th St. BID).

Which has been revitalizing Harlem‘s cultural scene by promoting the arts, entertainment, dining, and business community for over 30 years, kicks off the holiday season with the 30th anniversary of Harlem Holiday Lights, a free public event on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 (rain date on November 21, 2023) featuring New York City’s only parade of lights beginning at 6 p.m.

The parade, which has evolved from simple street decorations to a moving illuminated showcase that transforms the whole neighborhood, will integrate local businesses and community members, welcoming New Yorkers and visitors from all over the globe to experience the vibrancy, culture, and sounds of Harlem. Featuring 15 magically lighted up floats, the parade will assemble at 125th Street and Broadway, traveling throughout the neighborhood. The parade route and map can be viewed here.  

The theme for this year’s Harlem Holiday Lights focuses on “Celebrating Our Youth,” featuring two special Grand Marshals including Stephanie Pacheco, NYS Youth Poet Laureate and member of the 2022 NYC Youth Slam Team, as well as Grand Marshal Dr. Lena Green, DSW, LCSW, CLC, Executive Director of HOPE Center Harlem, a community-based mental health clinic in Harlem. Dr. Green received the Joseph R. Biden Presidential Service and Lifetime Achievement Award in September 2023.

New this year thanks to generous funding from New York City Department of Small Business Services (NYC SBS), the 125th St. BID will introduce five “Singing Trees” spaced out across the district, designed by Limbic Media, to bring the neighborhood to life through the holidays and beyond. The singing trees include unique lighting color spectacles and patterns with each block along the five-block corridor paying tribute to different musical genres celebrating the diverse sounds of Harlem, from Jazz and Hip Hop to Old School, R&B, and Classical, all integrated into programming. The trees will allow visitors to sing and support nearby local businesses even beyond the holidays through the “Shine On Harlem Challenge” as the trees remain active through March 2023 and visitors can use the Vibemap to navigate the sights, sounds and nearby sales of 125th St. The Afro-Latin Jazz Alliance Youth Orchestra and NYPD Explorers will also join the parade this year as ambassadors for the Singing Trees.

In addition to the parade, the neighborhood will glow with a variety of activations and experiences for locals and visitors of all ages and backgrounds, including musical entertainment, dance performances, parade watch parties, refreshments, giveaways and special promotions with local businesses, a mural project and so much more.

“For more than 30 years, Harlem Holiday Lights has evolved into a community-wide holiday celebration that represents the historical and cultural flavors of our neighborhood,” said Barbara Askins, President and CEO of the 125th St. BID. “With new activations this year made possible thanks to our partners, Manhattan Community Boards 9 and 10, Mount Morris Community Improvement Association, Apollo Theater, Columbia University, and Settepani Restaurant, the 30th anniversary of our BID is an opportunity to further shine a spotlight on 125th St. and the iconic neighborhood as a growing arts, culture and entertainment destination while also encouraging locals and visitors to our neighborhood to shop local. We look forward to such a warm and uplifting start to the holiday season to celebrate our youth, our neighborhood and the economic fabric and vibrancy of Harlem.”

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Other community partners and sponsors of the parade of lights and activation festivities include Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine ConEdison, Columbia University, Foxworth Realty, United House of Prayer, First Corinthian Church, Mt. Morris Ascension Presbyterian Church, HOPE Center Harlem, Harlem Renaissance Hotel, S.A.F.E. in Harlem, Dream Center Harlem, Ryan Hope Health Center, WHRC 90.3, and many others.

“For 30 years, the 125th Steet BID has spearheaded some of the city’s most creative and innovative neighborhood revitalization projects,” said NYC SBS Commissioner Kevin D. Kim. “Between its annual parade of lights and the inclusion of brand-new ‘Singing Trees,’ the 125th St BID’s long tradition of making a positive impact on the people and small businesses of Harlem is on full display. SBS is proud to support these projects, and I am excited to see what the BID comes up with next.”

“It is such a delight and honor to be one of the Grand Marshals for the 30th annual Harlem Holiday Lights, a beautiful community tradition that shines a spotlight on a neighborhood so rich in arts and culture, and one that I hold dear in my heart,” said Stephanie Pacheco, New York City’s 2023 Youth Poet Laureate.  “I dedicate my platform to inspiring and uplifting the next generation with the message that every story matters and the theme for this year’s milestone event of ‘celebrating our youth’ is so meaningful to me. I sincerely thank the 125th St. BID for such a prestigious recognition as we kick off the holiday season!”

“To serve as the grand marshal of Harlem Holiday Lights is a wonderful honor and gift that I will forever treasure.  We have so much to be proud of and this is an opportunity to celebrate the rich heritage and diversity of our community as we kick off the holiday season with the residents, businesses, visitors, and partners in the village of Harlem. The 2023 theme of celebrating our youth is one that is near and dear to my heart because it is also rooted in our beliefs, hopes and dreams about supporting and uplifting the youth of our community,” said Dr. Lena Green, DSW, LCSW, CLC, Executive Director of HOPE Center Harlem.

For more information on the holiday festivities including a full list of activations, please visit https://www.harlemlightitup.com/ and follow on Instagram at HarlemHolidayLights. For more on the 125th St. BID, visit www.harlembid.com 

The 125th St. BID

Established in 1993, the 125th St. BID is a not-for-profit comprised of property and business owners, community and government leaders, residents and staff, who work closely and collaboratively together to improve the experience of those who live, work, visit and invest in the Harlem community. The 125th St. BID is also committed to creating a high-quality urban environment that represents the cultural identity of Harlem, along with increasing visitation to the neighborhood, enhancing the public realm, and showcasing the corridor as a premier arts, culture and entertainment destination. For more information on the 125th St. BID, visit www.harlembid.com.

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