A Christmas bazaar or fête is a cross between a market and fair. Christmas bazaars are normally held indoors and are often organised by churches or other charitable organizations. They normally take place in November or December. They may last one or several days.
Christmas bazaars mainly consist of stalls that sell items such as homemade Christmas crafts and cards, homemade cakes and cookies, second-hand toys, charity Christmas cards, homemade jams/chutneys, used books, and antiques or bric-a-brac.
St. Mary’s, an English-speaking church that I am associated with in Rotterdam (The Netherlands), always has a Christmas bazaar in early November. I have helped on various stalls over the years, including the “Beautiful Britain”, second-hand toys, and gift jar raffle stalls. A stall that attracts a lot of visitors to this bazaar is the grocery stall, as it sells imported British goods that are not available in the shops in The Netherlands. Another stall that is always present due to the church’s connections is the “Mission to Seafarers” stall, whose proceeds support the charity of the same name.
Another annual Christmas bazaar that I have visited several times is one held in a Norwegian church (de Noorse Kerk), also located in Rotterdam. There they always sell beautifully knitted woollen Norwegian winter wear, such as sweaters, scarves, hats, and gloves. Textile-based crafts and Norwegian groceries are amongst the other things you can buy there.
Christmas bazaars normally host a raffle, where through buying a ticket, you have the chance to win one of a selection of pretty valuable prizes. Prizes are often donated by the organisers or sponsors of the event. Example prizes are food hampers, electrical goods, dinner-for-two vouchers, and even pre-paid vacations! At the Norwegian church I mentioned above, the raffle prize was once a Norwegian fjord cruise for two! Raffles are normally drawn at the end of the event. Since participants give their name and phone number when buying a ticket, they do not have to be present at the draw in order to win.
A smaller scale raffle, where you can win something immediately, is known as a “tombola”. The tickets are normally cheaper and the prizes are therefore usually of lower value. It works like this: Prizes with numbers attached to them are laid out on a table. A player takes out a number from a large rotating drum. If their number matches that on one of the prizes, they win it! While normally there are numbers in the drum that have no corresponding prizes, sometimes the game is arranged in a way so that everyone wins something with each ticket that they buy. This encourages people to keep playing!
A “lucky dip” is very popular with children, and is therefore often seen at bazaars. Basically, a barrel or box is filled with sawdust or shredded/scrunched up paper. Mixed in are a few toys or sweets, normally wrapped with Christmas paper. For a small fee, the player shuts their eyes and uses one hand to find and grab a gift from the barrel.
There is often a Santa Claus at a Christmas bazaar. He might be roaming around ringing a bell or may be sat in a large seat so that he can have children on his lap. He may even be in a semi-closed off “grotto”. If you are lucky, he might give your child a piece of candy or present!
There is usually a refreshment area or as the British say a “tea room”, where you can sit and have a drink and some snacks. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, cakes, biscuits, scones, and mince pies are typical at British Christmas bazaars.
There might also be some music at the bazaar. At my church’s bazaar, there are normally men playing Scottish bagpipes. They stand next to the church hall’s entrance to attract and welcome customers. There are also organ recitals inside the church itself.
I think visiting a Christmas bazaar is a perfect way to start the festive season. It is a great place to meet old friends and an ideal location to start your Christmas shopping! Maybe there is one local to you that you can visit this year! Check your local newspapers and church programmes.