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Tis’ the season (to shop local)

author: quinn bell | a&c  writer

Everything must go! / Pixabay

local gifts are local

For the sake of my sanity I tend to avoid shopping between November and January, lest I be swallowed up by Christmas cheer. It’s not that I dislike the holidays – I like Christmas trees and reindeer and candy-cane flavoured everything as much as the next guy. What I can’t handle is going shopping for shampoo on Nov. 1, still stuffed with Halloween candy, only to have my ears bleed out after hearing Mariah Carey sing about Christmas for the eighteenth time that day.

Shopping malls are hell at this time of year. Absolute hell. Crowds are one thing – I had no idea there were so many people in Regina. Does everyone go to the Cornwall at the same time as me, worried I’ll buy the last eggnog bath bomb? You have to fight your way around the mall only to get into a cramped store with overpriced everything, and then you stand in line. Oh, joy: Mariah Carey is playing again.

It’s not all negative; there’s hope on the other side. Christmas shopping can be really, really good, if you go to the right places. Regina, you’ll be thrilled to learn, has no shortage of holiday craft markets. These are many places you can go to find unique, locally made arts and crafts, without all the sickening crowds. Here, people smile at you because they’re happy to see you, not because they’re being paid commission. If that weren’t enough, to go along with it, there’s typically great food and entertainment that isn’t “All I Want For Christmas is You” playing on an endless loop.

Craft markets make this season special. They too have started in early November, but since they only happen on weekends, it doesn’t feel like overkill. Two weeks ago was Our Best to You, the annual holiday event that’s a staple for a lot of families I know. Artisans from around Canada gather at Evraz Place to sell their goods – everything from flavoured honey to oil paintings to goofy t-shirts. Last weekend, the Conexus Arts Centre hosted the WinterGreen Fine Craft Market, another multi-day event that had its own bar and live music going. Coming up on Nov. 24 is the MacKenzie Art Gallery’s Holiday Bazaart, another Regina classic. After that between Nov.30 and Dec. 2, the Brushworks Art Guild is having a sale at the Neil Balkwell Centre.

These are all bigger markets, ideal for those who like variety and quality (and for those less anxious in crowds than I am). The Queen City also hosts a huge number of smaller community sales. Last weekend Grace & Thyme had a vintage Christmas pop-up in the North End, Cathedral Village and Coronation Park each had local gatherings, and St. Paul’s Anglican hosted their annual Christmas Fair. Some notable markets which are coming up this weekend (Nov. 24) include Wesley United Church’s Bake Sale & Local Vendor Show, the Ukrainian Trade Show in Uplands, “The Spirit of Christmas” sale at St. Luke’s, Christkindl Markt at the German Club, and the Fibre & Finery Annual Sale at the Senior’s Centre on Elphinstone. With so many options, it can be hard to choose where to visit! Or, it make for a fun day out.

Here’s a look at the German Club’s “Christkindl Markt,” to illustrate the kind of magic you’ll find at a community market. Described as having “old world charm,” the German market is pretty special. You’ll be welcomed by smoking sausages cooking outside when you arrive. Take another whiff and you’ll sense something sweet and spicy; if you follow your nose, you’ll find your way to the Glüwein, a delicious mulled wine – warm, spiced, and perfect for a cold day. Look around the little stalls and you’ll be delighted by charming goods. Meet neat people who love what they do. At Christkindl Markt, you might even come across some handmade “Christmas Spiders” to hang in your tree (there’s a German tradition that claims it’s spiders who decorate the tree with tinsel). Think you’ll find that at the Cornwall?

When you go the mall, you know exactly what you’ll be getting: it never really changes, does it? Maybe that’s what people like about it, but for me it’s just too much. When you go to a Christmas market on the other hand, you’ll find adorable unique gifts, strike up real conversations with friendly and creative people, taste some stellar homemade baking, and maybe even get some wine to loosen you up. Go take advantage of what this city and season have to offer.

About Quinn Bell

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