ALTERNATIVE CHRISTMAS MARKETS/FAIRS
1. Purpose: opens markets in the U.S. which otherwise would be closed to artisans in other countries, particularly those struggling to survive in a third world economy or first world such as Palestine, and provide a welcomed source of income to artisans making economic survival more possible as well as sustaining a sense of dignity, worth and hope.
In the global marketplace, advent and Christmas seasons are plagued with manipulative commercialism accompanied by high prices without the guarantee of contributing positively to ending poverty and sources of hunger or providing fair wages. Conscious consumerism offers an alternative Christmas market and way to shop.
Handmade and unique crafts are made available to congregations and groups in their home environment which reduces the stress of shopping in crowded malls which are highly commercialized. With an Alternative Market/Fair there is a greater possibility of “feeling” and getting into the real spirit of Christmas, because your purchases bear a triple blessing for: the purchaser, the receiver of the gift and the artisan who has a source of income. You become part of a remedy rather than contributing to the rich getting richer.
2. An Alternative Christmas Market/Fair can be set up to serve the needs of the congregation, community and/or global concerns; consequently, the crafts can be representative from one country, many countries or your local community.
Local mission emphases can be displayed and staffed by members of the congregation. Also your church’s mission causes can be promoted and seek financial support either for or beyond the budget.
Community concerns can be addressed such as food bank, youth shelter, woman’s shelter, homelessness, counseling. Representatives of local organizations can be present and have a table with literature as well as receive contributions. They may also have items to purchase that support their cause.
Global concerns can be addressed with literature and possibly a local representative or member of the congregation to staff their table and answer inquiries. Examples are Habitat for Humanity, our General Assembly’s global mission outreach as well as your synod and presbytery’s various mission projects.
3. Frequently, a theme chosen by the committee responsible for the Alternative Christmas Market will be featured in a banner and/or displays decorating the fellowship hall or room in which the event will be held helping it to be a festive occasion.
4. Often food such as a lunch or dinner, cakes, pies, cookies – all a source for generating income for mission can be provided and draw more people to the Market.
5. Entertainment by members of the choir, congregation or even the community will also draw people to the event. Christmas recordings can also suffice to add a tone of festivity.
6. Some churches provide shopping baskets for shoppers and/or have a sheet with an assigned number for each vendor who marks his/her place on the sheet with the total of purchases made by the particular shopper to his/her booth. This means there is a central checkout stand where the items are added and packaged for the shopper. Sometimes the church does this as a courtesy or makes a very nominal charge to the vendors which is subtracted from the total of items sold at the event. Normally a check is sent to the vendor for the sales within a week of the event.
Another model is that each vendor takes care of his/her own sales and financial transactions at the event. Sometimes the church charges a small fee for the table/booth space to cover janitorial services and/or advertising expenses.
7. Length of event varies: one day, several consecutive days of a weekend- Friday through Sunday; several weekends.
8. Planning and recruiting volunteers are major issues to be addressed very early:
questions to be answered: the why, who, what, when, where and how. Examples:
a. deciding when to have the Alternative Market/Fair and for how long –hours and days…. then to be cleared by Session or official governing board and put on church master calendar, so there are no major conflicts in purpose, space and loyalties.
b. advertising to the congregation and also welcoming the community to participate as well as other churches in your denomination who are in the vicinity.
c. discerning what the space will allow in number of booths/ tables according to the length of the table.
d. deciding on the emphasis for the Alternative Marketplace and how many vendors will be invited as well as having guidelines established by which to invite vendor(s) which may vary from year to year.
e. developing interpretative materials for church website, newsletter, bulletins, bulletin boards and local newspapers re: mission purpose of an Alternative Christmas Market. ,
f. designing helpful signage, inside and outside the church facilities, directing people to the variety of opportunities, entrances, exits, bathrooms etc.
g. engaging all age groups in the implementing of the plan you develop both within your congregation and possibly your community.
h. seeking feedback and evaluation from all participants as to what worked and what might improve for the next time.
i expressing gratefulness to those who worked to make the event a success and a meaningful festive occasion enriching the meaning of Christmas and the gift of giving that truly makes a significant difference in the quality of living for many. This is a labor intensive enterprise. but oh how good it is to develop conscious consumers and offer the opportunity to artisans to work their craft and gain such rewards as self-reliance. fair wages. stability. dignity and hope.
j. reporting back to the Session or official board and congregation (and community if appropriate) the results of sales, contributions and overall “feel” of the Alternative Christmas Market/Fair.