Friday, November 26, 2010

Braziers, bazaars and bake sales

Do you ever wonder what happened to good old-fashioned Christmas Bazaars? I do.

If you're young and have never heard the term, let me enlighten you.

Bazaars were kind of a quirky combination of a bake sale, craft show and rummage sale all rolled into one. Everything was a quarter, a dime and sometimes even a nickle.

Today's craft and bake sale is the new bazaar, but most of them cost money at the door. Whoever thought of paying to shop?

When I was a tyke, I could wander right into the neighborhood bazaar. Every year after most of the leaves had fallen and winter was nipping at my nose, I remember going to the Christmas bazaar at the church across the street from my childhood home. Inside, among all the baked goods were homemade trinkets and a clutter of second-hand items in a section called a "White Elephant Sale."

This peaked my interest, as I could not imagine how an elephant, let alone a white one, could be for sale in a church basement.

Of course, there was no real elephant, but I remember seeing a ceramic one that stood about a foot high in the middle of a long cafeteria table. Its trunk was creased and curled into a circle with ivory tusks protruding from either side of a wide-open mouth.

Although a little scraped and scuffed around the edges, that white elephant was surrounded by a half-dozen pairs of someones grandmother's clip earrings, used ladies' church gloves, a collection of gaudy lapel pins, including an over sized poinsettia, a star-studded American flag, a sequined turkey and a blinking Rudolph.

The Christmas bazaars of my childhood always had a homey feeling: the co-mingling aromas of coffee brewing and cinnamon rolls baking; the sight of fully decorated Christmas trees and wreaths, the musty smell of old books, the endearing appeal of simple wood crafts and decorations, knitted sweaters and crocheted doilies.

So, the truth be told, the biggest thing that separates craft and bake sales of today and bazaars of yesteryear - the word bazaar is missing. I remember the challenge of learning to pronounce it when I was a kid. I liked the exotic ring as I slowly and dramatically said BA-ZAAR. There's nothing interesting or surprising about "craft and bake sale."

I also miss seeing those large clunky hand-painted signs with the giant letters BAZAAR, which, I'm not afraid to admit always looked like the word "brazier."

I looked up bazaar and found that it can be traced to Persia, which is Iran today. A bazaar meant "the place of prices."

Bazaars of days gone by were magical where Christmas was neatly arranged and mother's kitchen was transported to the underbelly of the sanctuary.

I think all Christmas craft and bake sales should be called bazaars. In fact, could I ask you a little favor? The next time your church or organization plans a holiday sale, please stop calling it a "Christmas Craft and Bake Sale" when good old nostalgic "Christmas Bazaar" will do just fine. Thank you.

2010 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national and state award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 and 2010 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took five first-place awards statewide. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at her on Facebook.

No comments: