The thrill of the festive hunt: Your guide to bazaar season

By Nancy Payne

Starting in mid-November, every weekend offers you the chance to pick up unique finds that are locally made, reasonably priced and usually support a great cause. That’s the beauty of Christmas bazaar season. Watch for signs outside churches, charities and nursing homes starting in mid-November.

Pro tip: Bring several of your own reusable containers for cookies and other baking, and cloth bags for larger purchases. And remember, like any other shopping expedition, it’s easy to get carried away—there are definitely better and worse choices.

Best bets

You’re looking for things you can’t get anywhere else, or that you can’t or won’t make yourself. Keep an eye out for:

-microwaveable rice- or bean-filled neck bags. These are often available at bazaars in much cheaper and more attractive versions than you’ll find in stores.

-homemade preserves

-shortbread and other baked goods with a long shelf life, or items such as pies or apple dumplings that freeze well

-quilted items such as placemats and table runners in Christmas fabrics. They’ll make you happy every year when you open your box of seasonal decorations.

-Christmas cake. If you must.

-gently used seasonal décor items. Many bazaars have a section where a dollar or two lets you pick up unnecessary-but-fun things like a mitten-shaped candy dish or a wreath made of jingle bells.

-handcrafted children’s toys, especially those cuddly animals crocheted in brightly coloured yarns.

Best left on the table

Even if they’re really appealing in the moment, there are some purchases you may regret.

-mittens knitted from synthetic yarns. At the risk of betraying our childhoods, when most of us wore two pairs of these multi-coloured mitts at a time, the reality is that they just don’t keep your hands very warm. Touques and scarves, though? Go for it!

-cookies that will go stale quickly or don’t freeze well. Of course, you could just solve the problem by eating them all right away.

-any battery-operated or motion-sensitive tchotchke that plays tinkly Christmas music. You’ll end up throwing it into a snowdrift or making a lifelong enemy of the person you gave it to.

-second-hand fake greenery; it will shed all over your house with no nice pine scent as compensation

Did You Know?

The word “bazaar” conjures up images of dusty Moroccan streets, intoxicating Lebanese spices, elaborate Turkish rugs and enthusiastic bargaining. The term comes from ancient Persian, and in much of the world, it refers to a gathering of stalls in an outdoor marketplace.

In Great Britain and North America, however, a bazaar has come to mean a Christmas charity sale offering a range of items, mostly homemade. You’d end up in a mad dash every Saturday if you tried to visit every bazaar around Kawartha Lakes, so it’s probably wise to just pick a few and really enjoy them.

And remember—it’s always worth missing out on the last hand-carved ornament if it means having a long-overdue catch-up conversation with that friend you’re sure to encounter.


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