Christmastime in New York City just wouldn’t be the same without its iconic holiday sites: the heralding angels at Rockefeller Center, the 13-foot-tall nutcrackers posted outside the UBS building on 6th Ave., the giant string of Christmas lights at the McGraw Hill building, the 72-foot Christmas tree
atop Radio City Music Hall’s façade. But none of those would be possible without the work of Mount Vernon-based American Christmas, which produces all of those holiday attractions, as well as countless others.
“It may sound funny but we quite literally are talking about Christmas 365 days a year,” says American Christmas CEO Fred Schwam. And he wasn’t exaggerating. Each year, beginning in February, members of Schwam’s sales team begins working with current and prospective clients, while the production team works to procure and prepare the necessary materials for their eventual installation.
The actual installations take place between mid-October and mid-December, after which the team gets a much deserved roughly two-week break. “We’re going seven days and seven nights a week this time of year,” Schwam says.
“The day after Christmas we start taking it all down,” he says. “By Jan. 15, everything is back in the building and by Jan. 31, everything is cleaned up and inventoried and put away. Our seasonal staff is done and Feb. 1, we’re getting ready for next year.”For Saks Fifth Avenue, American Christmas created a brand new installation this year. For the display, called The Winter Palace on Fifth, Schwam and his team created a 2 ½ minute light and sound display that incorporates 225,000 LED lights and 250,000 reflective crystals and over 12,000 feet of garland. Work on the display began on Oct. 13. “It’s really going to be absolutely spectacular,” Schwam says. “It’s really very, very unique and very special.” The show will be presented nightly on ten minute intervals from 4:30-11:30 p.m. Nov.3 through Jan. 10.
Founded in 1968, American Christmas currently has a growing roster of 385 clients for which the company does 525 yearly installs. Other prominent clients for whom American Christmas has produced displays include Macy’s, Madison Square Garden, Bergdorf Goodman and Cartier. And all of this is done with a team of just 50 fulltime and 125 seasonal employees.
“So much of what we do is far more complex than most people realize,” Schwam say. “We’re able to make it work because I have an incredible team of people here who are all extremely passionate about our work and totally dedicated to being great,” Schwam says.