The day after Thanksgiving is what they call Black Friday. On this day there are places in our country where combat shoppers in a buying frenzy trample each other and get into fights over 2-dollar toasters. People get hurt, sometimes killed, every year. Instead of driving everyone off it’s become a sort of macabre advertising. Alternatively, the day after Thanksgiving is also, ‘Buy Nothing Day,’ an international movement for people who refuse to shop at all on Black Friday.
Here in cozy Southeast Alaska we’ve got Christmas markets, craft fairs and community events on Thanksgiving weekend that are exactly the opposite of combat shopping and at the same time you can shop with good conscience. Holiday markets provide needed venues for local artists, crafts people and small businesses to connect with the community. All the markets incorporate fund raisers for local nonprofits. All are family friendly. All have music and good food. Nearly all the money spent and earned and spent again stays in the region. Shoppers stay longer than they would if they were just out buying stuff. They’re catching up with friends. If you want to jump on the ferry and go, here are some options:
Ketchikan: In the Gateway City, Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council will open the 26th Winter Arts Faire Weekend with a Gala reception at 5 p.m. on Nov. 27. It will be at the Cape Fox Lodge and the Ted Ferry Civic Center. No-host bar, food and live music. The gala is either $5, or free if you’re an Arts Council member. The Craft Faire on Saturday and Sunday is free. This year one of the booths is a high school group raising money to go to Europe. There will be more than 80 vendors. KAAHC’s website has a list of them all. Artists from Metlakatla, Wrangell, Craig and Thorne Bay as well as Ketchikan will be present. There will be arts based activities, like create your own puppet theater, for the kids. The High School Choir and Ketchikan’s Children’s Community Choir will be there. KAAHC Director Kathleen Light said, “I am just so proud and so impressed by the range of wonderful artists we have here.” On Sunday at 4 p.m. there will be the Christmas tree lighting at the Downtown Fire Station. Mr. and Mrs. Claus will be there overseeing free cookies, cider and caroling.
Petersburg: On Friday after Thanksgiving Petersburg has the Festival of Lights and Community Tree Lighting. Meet at the Trading Union at 5:30 p.m. to be there when Scandinavians take tree lighting to a higher level. Santa, and hundreds — yes hundreds — of people, walk down Main Street, adults holding candles, children holding glow sticks. A local citizen, usually an elder who has done a lot for the community, is selected to light the 70 foot Christmas tree by waving a wand. When the tree lights up, all the Christmas lights that Public Works has put up in town come on at the same time. The High School Band and Chorus and the community sing carols. Complementary hot cider. After that there is Devil’s Thumb Brew Fest at the Sons of Norway Hall. Beer and wine tasting contest. Also a people’s choice chili contest.
Sitka: If you’re in Sitka this weekend, Sitka’s Annual Christmas Bazaar will be in the Sweatland Hall on Sheldon Jackson Campus on Saturday Nov. 28. This community fundraiser has been around for 35 years. It supports Sitka Counseling and Prevention Services. There will be 40-plus artists, craftspeople, beautifully knitted items, jewelry, pottery, photography, baked goods and more. AND! they even have an honest to gosh Santa (who has been to Santa school) coming with a big bag of tricks to see the kids between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Juneau: The Juneau Public Market opens at noon on Friday Nov. 27. Peter Metcalfe and friends began this market in 1983. 150-plus vendors from California to Savoonga. It’s $7 for the weekend at Centennial Hall. It’s free at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center (JACC) across the parking lot. Metcalfe hires lots of locals, especially kids, even little ones. Which is great. People should know at an early age they can make a living in their town. On Friday a lot of us don’t buy much. We walk slowly, chatting with each other and the vendors. But you may find things on the first pass through that you don’t find anywhere else or at any other time. Like nagoon berry jelly the Audubon Society sells. It’s gone in five minutes so don’t count on it but sometimes you score.
One year I got a remarkable tool for removing hide fat carved by an old man from a remote village up north. It fit perfectly into my hand as if he’d made it for me. That’s a curious item. I don’t even use it but it’s one of the most satisfying tools I own — I only saw that man the one day, never before nor since. Another year I got a model dogsled from a friend living in the Yukon Territory that he’d made from willow withes. Every December it comes out of the Christmas box and sits on the mantle and I wonder where he is. There are terrific woodworkers including box joiners, bowl turners and the high school kids who sell wood shop projects at the JACC. Their cutting boards make sweet computer trays. The JACC is long on knitted wools, felted hats, home made jellies. Things people appreciate. Things that fill up stockings.
My wife’s friends steer me toward scarves, jewelry or clothes that would look good on her. At some point in the weekend I pick up essentials: shortbread, calendars, ice cream cones, hand made soap, the right coffee cup to replace one somebody broke last summer, block print cards and hand made ornaments; collecting back stories on each thing to tell the person who will get it just how that item came to be in their hands.
Local markets are a stress-free way to kick off the holidays: a few gifts, a few laughs, a few ideas, a few invites to holiday gatherings and a few weeks to enjoy the season. If you’re not in town, let someone know what you’re after. I’m sure they’ll pick it up for you.
If you’re looking for good, inexpensive Christmas gifts, and you’re thinking you might give someone a sourdough jar but don’t have sourdough starter to put in it, and don’t know someone who does, go to King Arthur’s Flour website: ‘How to make your own sourdough starter.’ Get it going on today. It takes a few weeks to ferment but will only cost a few dollars and will be totally worth it by Christmas.
I’ll do a Christmas bread column in a few weeks. You’ll be glad you have the sourdough.