I wrote this essay a few years ago. It appeared in the Globe and Mail. It has nothing to do with weddings, but everything to do with Christmas.
There was a yearning inside me that was so strong, I could taste it. It was a yearning for simplicity, authenticity, and a complete lack of sophistication – and it tasted like mincemeat pies.
by Christina Friedrichsen
There was a time when I snubbed crocheted dish cloths and Christmas ornaments made out of pipe cleaners and googly eyes. There was a time when concrete-floored church halls smelling like mincemeat and mothballs made me turn up my nose. Not any more.
I have grown to love church bazaars with the fervour of a pastor at the pulpit. Why?
Recently, I had to purchase a baby’s first Christmas gift. I felt a fair bit of pressure to find something good. I figured one of the big box stores specializing in toys and baby things would be my best bet. By the time I weaved my way through the crowd of pleading children and ornery parents to the baby department, my nerves were crackling like a fire in the hearth.
The towers of toys, the screaming kaleidoscope of primary colors, the frenzied staff who were always at least five aisles away, the massive signs prodding me to buy, buy, buy, all made me feel like I had just eaten 4,000 gummy bears laced with caffeine.
And it made me feel nostalgic for the Christmases I knew as a kid. The ones before big box stores, branding and Bratz Dolls. The ones before sleek marketing campaigns and Don’t Pay for Three Years. By the time I flew through those automatic doors into what seemed like the freshest air I had breathed in years, there was a yearning inside me that was so strong, I could taste it. It was a yearning for simplicity, authenticity, and a complete lack of sophistication – and it tasted like mincemeat pies.
The next morning, I loaded my three year-old into in the van and headed to the nearest church bazaar. Not only did I need a dose of homemade goodness, my little girl needed a taste of Christmas sans commercialism.
The familiar scent of Bibles, pews and perfumed elderly women welcomed us as we opened the heavy wooden doors to the church. A white sheet of paper with an arrow pointing down led us to the basement, where silver-haired ladies served warm slices of apple pie and coffee in Styrofoam cups. In the corner, elderly men manned tables selling used books and rummage sale items. But the craft tables were what we were there for.
My little one made a beeline for the tables with crocheted Santa brooches and snowmen made from pom poms. To her, this place was just as good as any mall or big box store. Better, because the sweet ladies couldn’t stop telling her how cute she was. And they couldn’t stop giving her things, like suckers, and tiny toys and ornaments to put on our tree. I think she got at least 100 smiles in half an hour, and a heaping bag of what she called “treasures”- all for free.
I bought myself an afghan that morning in bold colours that do not match my living room. I’m absolutely certain Nate Berkus would not approve. And I’m also certain that the kind lady who spent her days knitting it wasn’t calculating her hourly rate when she stitched away because she only charged me $25.
“I enjoyed doing it,” she said, as she handed it over. It is now a permanent fixture on my couch and the coziest blanket I’ve ever owned. The only problem is that my cat has claimed it for herself and she growls at me when I get near it.
Since that inaugural craft bazaar of the season, it’s become our Saturday morning ritual to visit as many bazaars as we can. It’s my goal to do as much Christmas shopping as I can there. Anything to keep me away from malls and jammed parking lots and salespeople who wear microphone headsets.
Just recently, my mother started joining us and our Saturday ritual has become more than a shopping experience: It has become a time for bonding between mother and daughter and grandmother. It has become a time of making memories; ones that I hope will glow in my little girl’s heart for years to come.
As I sit here, with my new blanket around my shoulders and my crocheted granny slippers on my feet, I raise my glass of eggnog to the afghan and tea cozy makers of the world. I raise my glass to the mincemeat pie makers and the Christmas ornament makers who give away their handmade goodies to little girls who smile at them.
I raise my glass to all that is authentic and unhip.