The Spirit of the Season
A bit of old world has always been present here in Canada. Wherever there were a bunch of Germans or Austrians congregating they formed clubs and with the clubs the seasonal customs would find their expression. Christmas was of course the best of all seasons. The women’s auxiliaries had an opportunity to show off their various handicraft skills and make money for the club. To have a regular Christmas Market was only a step away from what it has become now.
The Danube Swabian Club in Scarborough has followed this trend for decades successfully and led the way this year with an annual Christmas Bazaar that was as successful as ever. Most of the exhibitors come back and show their wares to an expectant public.
Some items are practical in nature and others are simply related to the season. These are of course my favourite things: decorations for the house and as gifts, seasonal sweets and chocolates, baked goods and tree decorations.
Gift ideas such as Käthe Kruse dolls for the very little ones made me dream back to my childhood, when I only had a teddy, but the neighbour’s kid had one of those lifelike dolls I admired so much then. I have a lot more than one teddy this day, because I collect them; and when I have too many I give some away where they will be loved. But giving away a teddy is difficult, because usually there is a story attached to it. Especially this year I feel closer to this childhood companion of mine. It is the teddy’s 100 anniversary, don’t you know!
In any event, the market was wonderful in its versatility. I fell also in love with these very large hand-blown and painted ornamental glass balls from Poland. At another regular exhibitor, George Jewellers, I was riveted to a display of freshwater pearls and lovely rose quartz items that seemed to go together so well. You might guess what will end up under my tree for me, I hope!
Upstairs I found Regina and her Dirndls and accessories. Her unique style never ceases to amaze me. In the past I was not a dirndl kind of a person, but Regina made me experience with her fashion versions that it is a most feminine way of expression. I love my dresses from her and look for opportunities to wear them. Look her up in Kitchener at the upcoming Christkindl Markt there!
Upstairs in the Danube Swabian Club the Women’s Auxiliary had a stand as usual and I always find something wonderful there. Also International Furs turned up this year. It was really nice to see them again at a fair. And if I did not already have a piece from them for every day of the week, I certainly would have easily found something there that would warm me in winter. I cannot imagine living without these incredible fur vests that I can wear inside or outside over a sweater, or my fabulous leather pieces, or the stencilled china mink jacket. Well, I am not going to list all my pieces here, but let me tell you that there is a lot more to this fur store with a Berliner furrier as the proprietor than meets the eye. Go ahead, check it out. There is nothing there that is endangered, but instead you will find something appropriate for our Canadian winters, including cuddly knitted items. I for one cannot imagine being without my furs and leathers. And guess what, I eat meat too!
Opening night of the fair was a smash hit, as was the whole affair, properly celebrated with good foods and drink and some music, courtesy Hermann, to boot.
The next fair took place in the Hansa Club, which for the last few years has joined in this tradition.
And while we are still going to Kitchener for the Christkindl Market there, we have a fabulous opportunity in Toronto. The 3rd annual Toronto Christmas Market was launched in the Nutcracker District with appropriate fanfare.
This area surrounding the St, Lawrence Market, which is about to celebrate a 300th anniversary next year, is heavily promoted by Tourism Canada and its own neighbourhood, which is very involved in the activities of "old Toronto". Dignitaries from the ministries and performance arts turned out together with business people of the area to give the season a proper send off.
Sascha Lutz was presented from the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, Frank Klees, a cheque for 13 thousand dollars, so the event can be properly promoted in the USA too. It is clear that we heavily rely on tourism to add to our economic success. For the Christmas Market this can only mean more visitors, more success, which has been hard in coming. It is clear that these things take time to develop. Unfortunately they are incredible costly, which some folks have a hard time understanding. The city does not give away anything. Being hooked up to electricity, and having the permission to do so, getting permission to do this and that and the other, all which costs a lot of money before you even get to the event.
Toronto is an especially expensive location, not to be compared with other venues, such as Kitchener. So what is being said here is that we need to pull together to make this a success. It is a German custom, which was much talked about at the opening press conferences.
Later on when he wandered around the booths I had the opportunity of presenting him with a pair of "lucky pigs" a custom he was not familiar with. Our research brought to light that the giving of pigs was practised as far back as the Middle Ages in Europe, when some sort of contest had prizes to be handed out at the end. The one that was last and actually the least good, was given a pig, so he would not feel left out. Pigs were also given when a couple married. Meat was still expensive and a pig was symbolic for a good fortune. Eventually these various applications and uses of the pig were modernized. Not many people kept pigs in the city, so they were miniaturized in Marzipan and given away as good luck charms any time something new started, especially the New Year.
For the official Christmas Market opening Karen Kain, of National Ballet fame, was at hand to throw the switch, which allowed the Christmas tree to be lit. Mrs. Bath, Vice Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany, had a few heart-warming things to say about this occasion and good wishes for this charming tradition were of course part of that.
We shall visit the Market again and tell you more of the neighbourhood it so perfectly fits into.
I hope you too will visit the St. Lawrence Market on Front Street and tell and bring your Canadian friends. This could be the next edition of a great German tradition finding a new home in Toronto.
Until next time
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